Years ago, while at a conference, I attended a breakout session on personal selling skills. The speaker, a well-known sales trainer, was terrific. He walked us through several helpful tips and strategies. I took copious notes.
During the Q&A section, someone asked him, “What’s the fastest way to become good, really good, at personal selling?” I expected the speaker to jump at the opportunity to say, “Take one of my courses” or “Read my book”. At the very least, I assumed he’d recommend practising the selling tips he had just taught us.
But he didn’t say any of that.
Instead, he advised us to simply, “Spend one hour a day getting better.”
Another audience member pressed him further. “Okay, but spend that hour doing what, exactly?”
“It doesn’t matter,” the speaker said to everyone’s astonishment. “It’s not the how that’s important. You’ll figure that out. The important thing is to commit to spending a block of time each week to getting better — somehow. I recommend an hour a day, but any schedule will work, so long as it’s weekly. If you do just that, trust me, you’ll get better. Much better. Fast.”
That advice intrigued me. This was early in my copywriting career (late 1990s) and email marketing was just emerging. I wanted to get better at that. So, I decided to give the speaker’s advice a try. When I got back to my home office, I pulled out my calendar and scheduled one hour a day to mastering email copywriting.
I didn’t have any particular plan. As the speaker recommended, I focused on just showing up, and didn’t worry too much about what I should actually do during those hours. Mostly, I improvised. Some days I’d read articles. Other days, I’d study email marketing examples.
Not surprisingly, I began to get better. In fact, in just a few weeks, my skill-level in email copywriting bore little resemblance to where it was when I began. In fact, I was becoming really good!
When you think about it, it’s not much of a surprise that this technique worked so well. When you invest serious time into anything, you often make progress, even if you’re merely stumbling along.
If you go to the gym five days a week, you’re going to get in better shape. Even if you’re not following the “perfect” workout routine.
If you practise guitar regularly this month, you’re going to play better next month. Even if you’re just following tutorials on YouTube.
That’s not to say methodology isn’t important. Of course, it is. But the advantage of following a schedule — say, an hour a day — is that you’re moving forward and gaining momentum. You’re also learning what works and what doesn’t for you. You may read a few articles and find that you’re more suited to video lessons. You may watch some videos and discover that you get more traction with live instruction and coaching.
The very act of spending focused time on getting better will lead to you find the best ways to get better.
So, if you want to become really, really good at something, don’t go searching for the perfect book, course or mentor. At least, not yet. Start by scheduling your “getting better” time. Put those blocks of time in your calendar.
Then, show up.
“Getting better” will naturally flow from there.
This article was originally published in LinkedIn Pulse here.