Pancho Mehrotra: training for excellence

We've all heard the saying 'practise makes perfect', but is it really true? Pancho Mehrotra says practising the wrong things repeatedly and without strategy, structure and awareness can ruin your sales mentality. Instead, he says you need to improve your technical focus and your ability to trust and apply what you've learnt to succeed.

We’ve all seen the likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic perform amazing shots under pressure and win.

So how do they develop this mentality and skill set to do it while being under incredible pressure? 

Putting this in a sales scenario, you go to a training session and come out pumped, determined to put everything you’ve learnt into your next sales meeting. 

Come next week and an important sales meeting and… you have forgotten all about the training you did last week, or don’t apply your new learnings to the meeting.


Maybe it was too new, maybe it was too hard.

In either case, you are back to your original handling of the sales situation, and the training session was just a ‘nice experience’ with no real value. 

Drawing a parallel between the sport and sales scenario above, the sportsperson has been to training, taken it with them to a high-pressure situation and executed the learnings successfully.

In contrast, the salesperson has ignored the learnings in their high-pressure situation and continued with their old ways. 


The secret is, the sportsperson is systematically taught how to practise to improve and implement. 

To understand why let’s first dispel some myths and theories about success.

We have all been told:

  • Hard work will always pay off. Sorry, hard work alone does not guarantee success. At a higher level, everyone works hard. Then there’s the problem of working hard at the wrong thing. That can actually set you back.
  • Stick to the same process. Sorry, sometimes your processes – be it in sales, or sport – need an upgrade, and so does your mentality. Just like the upgrade of an operating system for a computer. Doing the wrong things repeatedly can ruin your sales mentality.
  • Keep practising and you’ll succeed. Sorry, if you keep practising mindlessly, without strategy, structure, and awareness, it’s probably the fastest way to fail. This applies to sport as well as sales scripts and dialogues.

So, what’s the right way to improve? To get unprecedented success?

Let’s reframe the statements above:

  • Review your processes and look at new ways to improve. 
  • Work hard to implement new processes and ideas into your routine jobs to find a new and more successful way forward.
  • Practise is imperative to improving. However, the quality of your practise is often more important than the quantity.

We all know success is a state of mind. But what most salespeople and even sales directors and business owners don’t know is that there are two states of mind needed for practise to be able to apply what you have learnt.

  • The training mentality – technical focus.
  • The trusting mentality – flow focus.

Unfortunately, most learning is done with the training mentality – the grinding, repetitive work until you can remember your lines, like rote learning from school days.

It’s no wonder that salespeople get bored, as the training reminds them of the classroom.

In the trusting mentality, you learn to let things happen.

The training mentality is all about thinking about what you’re doing, analysing the words, delivering the words—specific structure for each scenario.

The trusting mentality is about being in the flow, not worrying about if you will execute successfully or not, but just doing it.

Both states are important as one teaches discipline, and the other teaches relaxation and trust.

So, here’s the critical part that most people are not aware of:

  • The training mentality is impatient.
  • The trusting mentality is patient.

Most salespeople spend all their time in the training mentality and in such a hurry to master what they’ve learnt and apply it in their sales meetings.

Then when they don’t execute it well in a meeting, it affects their confidence, but the worst thing is they lose the trust in their ability to learn and improve. 

In the tennis example, as players get closer to a tournament, they engage in more trusting training versus technique work. 

You need to be taught both training systems to become a master in your field.

One system works on techniques, and one works on performing under pressure and trusting yourself. 

The biggest problem is salespeople are not taught to trust themselves or to improvise and change things up, which is often reflected in their consistently below-par results.

Can you imagine a top sportsperson doing the same thing year in and year out without moving ahead?

So how can you improve and perform consistently at a high level?

The answer is simple:

  • Spend 40 per cent of your time on training mentality, executing your sales process, executing your sales lines and preparing to present.
  • Spend 60 for your time in the trusting mentality. This can be fine-tuned in training sessions, practising with colleagues and implementing at every opportunity.

Now there are specific guidelines that we have developed that focus on continuous improvement and are targeted to improve memory recall and comprehension and understanding.

I have always found that when you understand something, you can recall it faster and, importantly, apply it when required. This requires trust. 

Training needs to engage the person and the senses, both the right brain and left brain.

It is essential to connect emotionally with what you are learning and then develop that connection with the client. 

Think about the contestants in The Voice.

The coaches will often provide feedback to the singer, saying that they delivered a perfect song but felt no connection with them or the song.

This is much like a salesperson who can recite the script but has no connection to what they are saying or the client. 

To drive this, I use some key principles from the Montessori method that help build confidence and the ability to recall and apply the techniques under pressure.

When we do this, often the feedback from attendees is that they can apply it without any extra thought or stress in sales situations.

This is what we call Unconscious Competence, which I have referred to in an earlier article.

In summary, training to succeed is a simple formula:

Design the training to deliver the outcome. 

Practise the correct process until it is ingrained in you.  

Involve the head and the heart – technical and trust, in tandem.

Once you get the above right, watch those sales conversions roll in.

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Pancho Mehrotra

Pancho Mehrota is the CEO of Frontier Performance and a recognised leading expert in the area of communication, influence and the psychology of selling.