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The Mistake-Plagued ...

The Mistake-Plagued Journey to Success

By Star Report 4 min read

Throughout my sales management career, I have occasionally reminisced back to my days of coaching college and minor league professional basketball for techniques and strategies I employed to bring about the development of my players.  I have always felt that there is a strong correlation between developing performance-driven athletes and developing performance-driven sales professionals. 

As sales managers, we understand the importance of meeting our sales associates where they are, establishing mutual trust, and then leading them to where want them to be in order for them to achieve peak performance.  More times than not, this move requires the implementation of new fundamentals.  This brings us to the golden question of "how do we implement new fundamentals and skill sets with a sales associate to where they become instinctual?"  After all, we know that teaching a new skill and having the sales associate practice it a few times merely to gain an understanding of it ultimately leads to them abandoning that new skill in favor of what is comfortable once the customer walks through the front door of their model home.  As sales leaders, that's where our frustration lies. 

Here at New Home Star, we have always believed in the power of practical application through role-playing.  And while I also subscribe to this idea, I believe that it is how we role-play rather than just going through the motions of the role play itself.  Most of us have heard the expression, "if you continue to do what you've been doing, you will continue to get what you've been getting." 

I also remember one of my first mentors, Coach Bob Knight, always preaching that a player or team will perform in a game how they perform in practice.  If you want a different result when it's game time, there must be change in the way we practice.  For instance, I once had a very talented and skilled point guard who I needed to be faster with the basketball in order for our team to play at a pace that would enable us to compete at a high level.  I noticed that when he was working on drills I had assigned to him, he would dribble up and down the court as fast as he could without getting uncomfortable and risk losing control and, therefore, making mistakes.  

The problem with this is that he is not getting any faster with his dribble.  He is merely reinforcing what he already knows to do, which leads to complacency and stagnation.  So, I challenged him to dribble up and down the floor so fast that he made mistake after mistake.  In fact, if I noticed him doing this and he wasn't losing control of the ball or making mistakes, I gave him some rather stern and blunt feedback (Coach Knight style of course).  

As odd as this might sound, his success was measured by the amount of mistakes he made.  The more mistakes made, the more successful he was.  While he spent a couple of weeks incredibly frustrated by being taken from his comfort zone and put in a situation where he was no longer mistake-free (and, yes, he wasn't my biggest fan during this time), I started to see gradual improvement with his speed.  And, finally, after enough repetitions, taking it from conscious thought to the subconscious, thus creating a new habit, he regained his comfort level and mistake-free control…but at a much faster pace.  Now, he was playing at the level he was always capable of; he just needed to get out of his own way and be uncomfortable for a while.

The fact is no improvement can occur in any endeavor when one is in the safe confines of their comfort zone.  For those of us that frequent the gym on a consistent basis, we know the fitness results that are achieved from resistance training and it's process of breaking down the body only to build it back up much stronger.  With that said, when role-playing with our sales associates, I challenge you to strongly encourage them to practice in a manner that removes them from their comfort zone and brings about a plethora of mistakes.  Are they going to get frustrated with this process?  Absolutely.  

It's imperative that we are encouraging and supportive of them and celebrating each and every mistake made knowing that they are one repetition closer to being the sales associate we know they are capable of becoming.  And by empowering them to take one step back in order to take two steps forward, we get to experience the ultimate serendipity of our leadership role—the evolution of a person going from good to great!  

Matt Esarey began his career coaching college and minor league professional basketball.  Upon finishing his MBA, he chose to redirect his passion for coaching and developing people towards a career in sales management within the real estate industry. As the Director of Client Engagement with New Home Star, Matt has the opportunity to travel the country utilizing his 10 years of management experience in conducting sales training seminars as well as sales talent acquisition initiatives.  

Originally published May 7, 2015 under Explore the latest topics, updated March 19, 2024

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