Does practice make perfect?
We all value the concept of practice…in theory, but does practice make perfect? Practicing that fly ball catch or learning how to shoot a basketball as a kid, there was a coach nearby drilling that “practice makes perfect.” This perceptive advice is easy to pass along to someone learning, but in your professional career the case for practice can be neglected… especially when you’ve been playing the game for years. Who likes to role play practice? It’s easy to think that since you’re an experienced player you can pull out a good performance on game day. As a former high school coach I used to gage our success on practice (with apologies to Allen Iverson); practice well play games even better. I actually learned this very early as a player.
Back in high school my baseball coach would often get on me about my sloppy batting practice. He’d say “You aren’t setting your stance correctly, that’s not how you will be consistent in games.”. “You’re rushing it, just going through the motions.” I’d say (to myself) “Why does it matter right now? We’re not playing anyone now. I’ll do it right when it’s for real. And after my mediocre performance in the next game; He would remind me of that learning moment…“You play like you practice. Practice sloppy and you’ll play sloppy.” You’ll play like you practice. You’re not going to be sharp unless you practice being sharp.”
So, Does practice make perfect?
“You play like you practice” is as true in sales messaging as it is on the sports field. Practice can take a variety of forms. The following are a couple of strategies we’ve seen work. See what ideas you can add to the list:
Plan the conversation in writing. Before an executive meeting, take notes on 3 Whys (Why change? Why Now? Why You?) related to the specific conversation. It may require research, thoughtful planning, and innovation to prepare to bring real insight to the conversation. The results are well worth the effort.
Call a friend or colleague and present your two-minute story. The two-minute story often earns you the opportunity to continue a strategic executive-level conversation. Plan your story and practice it several times. Ask your friends to interrupt you and act rushed so you learn to adapt your story on the spot.
What ways have you practiced for executive conversations? I would like to hear your ideas.!