The Importance of Practice in Sales with Andrew Sykes

Sales is a challenging and dynamic profession that requires continuous improvement and development.

In today’s highly competitive business world, salespeople must constantly hone their skills and adapt to changing market conditions to succeed.

The key to becoming a successful sales professional is practice.

Practicing your sales skills on a regular basis not only helps you to improve your abilities but also builds your confidence and refines your sales approach.

Andrew Sykes, CEO and Founder of Habits at Work,  joins Collin Stewart on this episode of the Predictable Revenue podcast to discuss the importance of practice in sales and how to improve your embodied skills.

Developing Embodied Skills

When we think about skills, we often think about intellectual skills such as reading, writing, and problem-solving.

These skills are typically developed through academic learning and are crucial for school and workplace success. However, there is another set of skills that are just as important but often overlooked: embodied skills.

Embodied skills are the skills of doing. They are the physical and emotional skills developed through practice and experience.

These skills are often referred to as “soft skills,” but they are anything but soft. In fact, they are some of the hardest skills to master because they require a high level of self-awareness, empathy, and intentionality.

So Why Are Embodied Skills Important? 

First, they are essential for effective communication and collaboration. Listening, asking the right questions, and building trust are critical for building relationships and achieving shared goals.

Second, embodied skills are often what differentiate high performers from average performers. Anyone can read a book on a subject, but not everyone can apply that knowledge effectively. Embodied skills are what allow us to turn knowledge into action.

Developing embodied skills takes intentional practice. It’s not enough to simply read about them or watch others do them. You have to do them yourself and receive feedback on your performance. This is where coaching can be incredibly valuable.

A coach can provide you with the right kind of feedback to help you improve your skills and develop the right mindset for success.

Embodied skills are a critical component of success in today’s world. They are the skills of doing that allow us to communicate, collaborate, and achieve our goals effectively.

Developing these skills takes intentional practice and a willingness to receive feedback. So the next time you think about developing your skills, don’t just focus on intellectual skills. Consider the embodied skills that will make you a better communicator, leader, and teammate.

Why Practice is Essential in Sales

Sales is also an embodied skill, and you can only develop these skills through practice, and a particular type of practice at that.

As salespeople, we actually have a tendency of lying to ourselves that we’re better because we’ve been doing it for a while, and therefore we don’t need to practice anymore. I’ve got experience; why would I need to practice?

The reality is that if we don’t practice, our skills get worse over time, because bad habits creep in.

Practice is important in sales for several reasons. 

Firstly, it allows you to hone your skills and develop new ones. Sales is a dynamic and constantly changing profession. What worked yesterday may not work today. Salespeople who practice regularly are better equipped to adapt to changing market conditions and stay ahead of the competition.

Secondly, practice helps you build confidence. Confidence is an essential trait for salespeople. It helps you to connect with customers, build relationships and close deals. By practicing your sales skills, you can improve your confidence and become more effective in your job.

Finally, practice helps you to refine your sales approach. Sales is not a one-size-fits-all profession. Each customer is different and requires a unique approach. By practicing, you can experiment with different techniques and approaches to find what works best for each customer.

The Critical Embodied Skills That We Need to be Practicing

Choosing which embodied skills to practice first will depend on where you are in your sales cycle.

There are a bunch of skills around negotiating that really make a difference.

For example, the skill to build your case by starting with an ambitious goal that addresses the gaps in your counterparty’s plan. B, rather than leading with our fears in a negotiation.

Another big skill would be how to present ideas and how to present yourself.

There’s a myth in sales that trust takes time to build, and all of our experiences mirror that myth; that’s why it feels true. But all the research says trust is built in minutes, not months.

And the problem is we’re often viewing ourselves as building trust when we’re actually climbing out of a trust hole that we were put in because we made a bad first impression.

A great impression made by someone with the label ‘salesperson’ doesn’t necessarily get the job done because when people see us coming, they automatically assume we’re untrustworthy.

How you manage yourself when you first meet someone and how you introduce yourself can avoid that. So it’s a great example of a skill that makes a massive difference because climbing out of that trust hole can buy you 3 to 6 months in a deal cycle.

Someone else who made a great first impression is already in the discovery process!

How and Where to Start Practicing

If you’re not practicing every single day, you’re missing an opportunity.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time practicing, but if you have it as a discipline every day, and say you only get 1% better every time, in a year, that levels you up 10X because of the compounding effect of practice.

Rule 1: Show up. It makes an extraordinary difference and has you stand apart from almost all professionals who don’t spend time practicing.

For example, playing hockey once a week is not the same as practicing once a week because your mindset is different. It’s a performance, not a practice.

Rule 2: The best place to practice is in a room with another human. Zoom calls are also not a bad alternative, especially if you’re practicing video call skills.

Rule 3: Having the right mindset, the tools that enable practice, and freedom from distractions.

Rule 4: Practice should be intentional. What are you practicing? What are you trying to achieve? What specific actions are you going to take?

Building a Culture of Feedback as a Sales Leader

Creating a culture of feedback requires a thoughtful approach and a commitment from everyone on the team.

Start with a clear purpose

What do you want to achieve through feedback? What kind of feedback do you want your team to give and receive? What behaviors and attitudes do you want to encourage? Having a clear purpose will guide your efforts and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Lead by example

You need to model the behavior you want to see in your team. Be open to feedback yourself and demonstrate a willingness to learn and grow. When your team members see you accepting feedback and making changes, they will be more likely to follow suit.

Encourage frequent and timely feedback

Feedback shouldn’t be a once-a-year event. It should be a regular part of your team’s interactions. Encourage your team members to give and receive feedback often, and make it clear that it’s okay to do so. Also, ensure that feedback is timely. The sooner someone receives feedback after an action or behavior, the more impactful it will be.

Create a safe and supportive environment

Feedback can be uncomfortable, so creating a safe and supportive environment is essential. Encourage your team members to be honest, and direct but also respectful, and constructive. Create a culture where feedback is seen as a way to help each other grow, not as a way to criticize or blame.

Provide training and resources

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill that takes practice. Provide your team with training and resources to help them develop these skills. Teach them how to give feedback effectively, how to receive feedback without becoming defensive, and how to use feedback to improve their performance.

Celebrate successes

Feedback isn’t just about pointing out areas for improvement. It’s also about celebrating successes and recognizing good work. When someone receives positive feedback, make sure to acknowledge and celebrate it. This reinforces the importance of feedback and encourages your team to continue giving and receiving it.

Continuously evaluate and adjust

Creating a culture of feedback isn’t a one-time event. It requires ongoing evaluation and adjustment. Monitor how feedback is being given and received and make adjustments as needed. Solicit feedback from your team about how the feedback process is working and what could be improved.

How to Improve Specific Embodied Skills Through Practice


If you look it up, it means to pay attention rather than to hear. So when you’re practicing listening, you’re actually practicing using your eyes to a degree, your ears, and your body to pay attention to someone.

Listening begins with being silent and ends with attending to what you notice.

When you’re listening to someone, and you can hear what they say, see how they’re feeling, and maybe through conversation, get to what really matters to them, you’ll notice what they need.

Being an empathic listener begins with the mindset shift: my job isn’t to fix; it’s to feel with this person.

Ask more questions

People typically ask half as many as is optimal, which is about 14 in an average meeting.

Conversation is born from the choreography of different types of questions.

For example:

Questions that allow you to connect: 

What’s your favorite book and why?

Questions that get you what you need to know:

What’s your annual budget?

Questions that signal you’re listening: 

When you said $200,000 USD, you mentioned that it’s part of your budget and part of someone else’s. Could you explain further?

Questions that focus action:

So, Collin, if you’re thinking about taking the step, what’s the one thing that you could do tomorrow that would make the most progress?


To be successful in the sales industry, it’s essential to practice and develop embodied skills such as active listening, empathy, and nonverbal communication.

These skills allow salespeople to connect with customers, tailor their sales pitch, and create a positive customer experience. Practicing embodied skills also helps salespeople develop self-awareness, improve their communication and interpersonal skills, and increase their success in the industry.

By investing in practice and skill development, you can become more effective and confident in your roles.

If you want to learn more about improve your sales process through practice, get in touch with Andrew Sykes on LinkedIn.




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