Practice Makes the Difference

I was reminded of a very important, very underutilized tool this weekend… practice! Sure… the tool seems so simple, but it is so often overlooked.  It became very clear to me in a recent encounter with my teenage son.  He and some buddies made a golf date and needed to set up a tee time.  So, he looked up the golf course and gave them a call. Then the most interesting thing happened. The person on the other end of the line picked up and my son’s mind went blank.  He had a struggle getting his thoughts lined up to ask the questions he needed answers to.  It all worked out and the other person figured out what he wanted and they booked their time together with that person’s help, but it was a little difficult to listen to!  When he got off the phone, I asked him what happened. He told me his mind just went blank and he couldn’t get the words out straight.  Can happen to anyone, right?  It’s true.  Any circumstance, any time.  We talked about it and he told me that had he taken a second to think through what he needed to know, he could have formulated his thoughts ahead of time, resulting in an easier conversation. I would venture one more step… perhaps even speak through the questions out loud first, a ‘practice run’ of sorts.

So, what does this have to do with business development?  A lot.  Business development conversations can be difficult to begin with.  Why not make them easier on yourself with a little pre-planning?  Try this tip… before dialing the phone or seeing someone in person, ask yourself the following three questions:

  • What do I want to learn from this conversation?
  • How will I ask for the information?
  • What follow-up questions may I have?

Next, study the answers and develop your message to the person on the receiving end. Your not quite done… practice delivering the message(s) you develop from the answers to those questions before making that call.  This practice helps you have much smoother conversations.  It will also help you gather the answers you need to make subsequent decisions. Build this into a habit and you will be a much more effective communicator in the long run.  Practice really makes the difference!