Category Archives: Sales

How to Differentiate Your Outbound Sales Calls

by Doug Robertson

“Until recently, we’ve been lucky. Because of our brand, we had lots of inbound calls. Today though, that stream is drying up and we have to extract more business from our existing clients. That means we need our sales crew to maximize every interaction – including outbound follow-up calls. But outbound calling is a very different skill set… and we’re anxious. We’re not sure what to do.”-  Retail Sales Executive

As a sales training firm, we’re hearing that outbound calling, even cold calling, is becoming more important. And while there are sometimes cultural, operational, or structural factors that make this kind of selling a challenge, often the biggest barrier is

When skill is the issue, training plays a role and there are plenty of excellent training solution providers that can help teach new skills. But beware, not all training solutions are created equally. Only a few solutions build the skills that can truly differentiate your outbound call from those of your competition.

 Outbound Calling Skills that Differentiate

If you want your outbound calls to stand out from the rest, here are a few skills that your outbound calling team must know and do:

  1. Introduce themselves – clearly and slowly – and acknowledge their call was unexpected
  2. Ask permission to explain why they’re calling
  3. Immediately position the reason for their call, in terms of its value to their prospect
  4. Set specific time and outcome expectations and ask for permission to continue the conversation
  5. Ask two to four open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”– questions carefully planned and focused on prospects’ specific needs, values, hopes
  6. Listen closely and actively and play back what they’ve heard using their prospect’s own words
  7. Position their solution using engaging language
  8. Ask for the business and when they get it, agree on specific next steps


Bridging the Know/Do Gap Continue reading

The Two Most Common Missing Ingredients of Great Sales Conversations

by Randy Sabourin

A sales conversation can be a beautiful thing; it can flow, it can be fun, and it can pay the bills.  It can also establish creditability, build trust and become the catalyst for a relationship of mutual respect. But it can also be heavy lifting, it can feel like a battle, it can be full of frustration, and you can walk away feeling further behind. And though both parties are responsible for the outcome, the salesperson is accountable for its success.empathy_curiosity

I’ve personally conducted, observed and coached thousands of sales conversations: successful and otherwise. For over 17 years, our organization has helped salespeople practice hundreds of thousands of sales conversations. We’ve tracked the performance of every salesperson in every one of these conversations. Through this process, we have also coached on every conceivable sales model and process in every market in North America and around the world.

With all this qualitative and quantitative data I can say that the two most important skills (and the two that are often performed worst) are curiosity and empathy. Continue reading

Every Great Conversation

by Randy Sabourin

I believe that the most important things that happen at any organization are conversations. They are the reason we innovate, collaborate, sell, lead, coach, change, succeed, or fail. A salesperson who struggles to have meaningful customer conversations, a leader who is misunderstood when implementing strategy, or a manager who prefers to avoid coaching conversations are all negatively affecting their organizations. Given its significance to success, why is it that most organizations and individuals take their ability to execute a great conversation for granted? Understanding how we communicate with each other and how we influence and collaborate should be discussed, taught, and – most importantly – practiced.

The fundamentals of a good conversation remain consistent across a variety of business and personal situations. Training programs in sales or customer service, negotiation, coaching, and leadership all contain the same foundational elements. These are often re-taught or re-invented by providers to package a complete solution. These programs require a detailed list of skills for participants to master. For example, when learning how to coach it is critical to understand many steps – or skills – such as establishing trust, setting an agenda, observing behavior, giving feedback, gaining commitment, and many more. It is important to receive feedback on these individual skills so that they can be understood and leveraged. In each program, the number of measurable skills to learn and practice can range from ten to thirty.

During an actual conversation, it is unrealistic, complicated, and even a distraction to try and recall every step within each process and program we have learned. Brain-based learning research tells us that when we are engaged in a conversation – listening, understanding new ideas, and adapting our opinions – we require a much simpler model to simply recall the various skills associated with the exchange.

There are four foundational elements that can be applied to business or personal conversations, and that are simple enough to stick. They act as an effective foundation for any communication-based program.

Continue reading

1:1 Deliberate Learning & Practice – Case Study

1:1 Deliberate Learning & Practice – NO Workshop Sales Training

Practica Learning combines 1:1 Learning and Scenario-Based Deliberate Practice to deliver a new approach to training a large or small group of participants quickly and cost effectively. The objective of this approach is to reduce the costs associated with low-retention Instructor Lead Training (ITL) and increase the skill level of each participant.

Executive Summary

Practica Learning has successfully designed and delivered a 1:1 Learning Program that converted two days of traditional workshop content into two forty-five minute 1:1 ‘tutorial’ sessions delivered over the telephone or synchronous video.  By removing learning in a group environment we can reduce the time spent by each participant in non-productive classroom activities. Each participant remains free from distraction and can focus, along with the facilitator, on understanding the content and developing skill. The motivation for this methodology is to quickly and cost-effectively increase the knowledge and skill level for conversation-based interactions such as coaching, customer service, sales, leadership development, change, diversity, and performance management. This case study concentrates on delivering a sales conversation process to 500 Salespeople.

The solution leverages a combination of:

  1. Facilitated content delivered through 1:1 tutorial sessions

  2. Interleaving and Spaced practice scenarios supported by feedback and coaching

  3. Roleplayer Coach assessment and feedback

The benefits:

  • Increase time to value for learning deployment and skill improvements

  • Measure performance and development of each participant by skill

  • Decrease cost per participant

  • Decrease time out of office, travel, lost opportunities

  • Remove all training licensing fees

Continue reading

The Missing Link – How to Really Get ROI from Your Expensive Sales Methodology

Executive Summary: There’s a better way to get ROI from your sales enablement investment and empower your salespeople to have value-based conversations with their prospects. It’s called “deliberate practice,” and it’s helping enterprise sales organizations create high-performance sales teams by moving average salespeople to the top tier and getting more consistent results from their top performers.

click to read full article – pdf 

Selling Power Features Practica Learning in Webinar

Founder & CEO of Selling Power, Gerhard Gschwandtner, describes Practica Learning’s webinar as “Solid information, great content and very engaging.”. On January 24th, Practica Learning’s Co-President Randy Sabourin shared insights and provided examples of how deliberate practice can significantly impact results to sales organizations as compared to today’s most common approaches to sales training. The Making Of A Sales Expert: How Deliberate Practice Will Give Your Team The Edge in 2017 was the title of this well received webinar by hundreds of sales leaders from more than 41 countries. “We must have struck the right chord with this topic and the content to have attracted so many sales leaders.”, explains Sabourin. The topics included the importance of deliberate practice in developing top performing sales leaders, the over emphasis of knowledge transfer that leads to ineffective sales training initiatives and straight forward examples of how to apply the latest best practices in the science of expertise to sales development strategies.

Click here to watch recorded version of webinar.

The Competitive Advantage of Deliberate Practice

  by Randy Sabourin

One of the most critical competitive advantages for any organization is the skill level at which their people have important conversations. Interpersonal interactions, whether customer-facing, coaching, diversity & inclusion or leadership, can positively or negatively affect an organization more than a marketing campaign, a recognizable logo, a great product, or a good price. Business leaders look to Learning and Development (L&D) to deliver this competitive advantage across the organization with the expectation of a greater return on their investment every year.

deliberate-practiceWe are about to witness a fundamental shift in the way L&D organizations deliver on this mandate. To be an expert at an interpersonal skill, whether internal or client-facing, knowledge of the process is only half of the equation. Converting knowledge into a skill, or crossing the ‘know – do’ gap will be the new strategic objective for leadership and L&D.

L&D has traditionally focused on transferring knowle
dge to their learners in the form of workshops, e-learning, videos, etc. According to research from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), 80% of L&D budgets are allocated to these traditional knowledge transfer methods, with 50% being instructor-led training (workshops). The evolution of technology has enabled L&D to deliver knowledge from a vast variety of sources to a learner’s preferred device, all at an effective cost . The art of curating content is becoming more and more valuable to organizations. For example, having access to an unlimited amount of songs becomes a burden without the aid of curated playlists. L&D organizations have become extremely good at delivering knowledge to their learners. However, knowledge is not skill.
Continue reading

Can your Sales Training hit a curveball? – What we can learn from Baseball’s use of deliberate practice.

by Randy Sabourin

Learning & Development organizations face the challenge of more training baseball_hitterwith less budget and as a result, sales veterans and higher end performers are often left out of L&D plans in order to address more pressing issues like on-boarding or large scale change initiatives. The challenge is twofold: should L&D invest in this group, and is there a more effective strategy to increase the skill of senior, experienced sales leaders? To answer the first question… yes! Increasing the performance of skilled and experienced salespeople can realize very high returns very quickly.  I would offer the Pareto Principle (80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your Salespeople) as incentive to invest in your best performers. The problem is that creating and delivering learning for this group is a unique challenge and requires a unique strategy. Continue reading

Business Improvisation for Entrepreneurs – Interview with Randy Sabourin

Why Improvisation Is a Crucial Business Skill (and How to Become Better at It) by Dan Misener

This interview took place at Ryerson University Ted Rogers School of Management as part of the Startup School in the Entrepreneurship & Strategy MBA Program.

Jazz musicians know how to do it. So do comedians. Salespeople? Not so much.

The art of improvising and thinking on your feet could be the best sales lesson you ever learn. That’s why we asked Randy Sabourin, a business improvisation specialist, to share his expertise with our TGIM listeners.

In this interview, you’ll:

  • Find out how improvisation can help you close more sales
  • Discover the four-step process to becoming a better improvisor
  • Learn two places where people often fail when it comes to improvisation

Check out the full 8-minute interview below:


You read the transcript of this interview here



The Art of Sales Improvisation – Your Competitive Advantage

Reprint from Focus Magazine — Spring 2016 Digital Edition

Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network 






By Randy Sabourin

There’s a moment every Sciences Sales Rep knows and many dread. It’s the moment during the sales call with a Health Care Provider when you know nothing is going to happen. It’s not a disaster, because you have a relationship, but you know, and likely they do as well, that you’re wasting your time, nothing is going to happen today. The moment manifests itself several ways: it could be in the lobby as the Doctor walks between examining rooms notices you and says “Hey Joanne, what’s new?” It could take place after you get invited into the office and the conversation starts with “So why are you here today?” or maybe even it’s the awkward transition from the small talk over the lunch you carried in as everyone around the table is waiting to pay you for lunch with their attention. OK go! Be interesting, tell them all why your product/drug/therapy/device is better than anyone else’s and a lot more interesting than you, or even your colleague, articulated last week.sales improv

Every Rep has been in that situation and if they are still a Rep they know the answer to this dilemma is the reason they are good at their job, they improvise. By improvise I don’t mean they told jokes that made everyone laugh or made stuff up, the meaning of improvisation is much deeper and more meaningful. The ability to improvise is to combine being creative and delivering that creativity in real time; it’s thinking and doing simultaneously. It’s the skill of working with what you have around you and leveraging it to meet your objectives. It’s not winging it or BS-ing or being unprepared. You’ve seen people who are naturally good at improvisation but like most useful skills it can be taught. It is taught to Firefighters when they’re learning to use the Jaws-of-Life, to athletes who need to save a play gone wrong, to jazz musicians, and to actors for both serious and comedic purposes.  

Preparation is a key factor for successful Sales Improvisation. The process steps Continue reading

To learn more about us and how we can help your employees become more effective communicators through deliberate, experiential practice, please contact us.
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