Sales Acumen – Use it or Lose it!

The negative to becoming successful is that often we neglect the activities that made us successful which can cause skill depreciation. Think about how a car loses its value the older it gets, it depreciates, well it’s possible for your level of skill to depreciate also.


When sales people become successful often they start to drop core activities that made them successful, commonly cold calling is dropped. Skill depreciation will happen with any skill, but to make my point let’s use cold calling as an example. Now cold calling is a skill, an art if you will. The more practice you put in the better you become at it. The more cold calling you do the better your pitch becomes to hook in the prospect on the phone, the better you deal with reservations on a call and the better you deal with being rejected, brushing it off and moving on to the next one.


But like any skill, if it goes unexercised you’ll lose your talent for it. Take sports or playing an instrument, how many people do you know whom could play fluently as a child if you put the instrument or ball in their hand. However if you did so now they’d struggle as they’ve lost that talent that was once there. If you’re good at anything in life you need to exercise it, not just to get better but to maintain that skill level. Let your practice slip and so will your proficiency in that area.


man having a phone call in front of a laptop

This point is highlighted in a study named the Swedish International Adult Literacy Survey which tested participants on a broad set of information processing competencies. The study tested 622 individuals in both 1994 and 1998.


They were given tasks which related to three areas

  • Prose literacy – the ability to understand and use information from texts
  • Document literacy – the ability to understand and locate information contained in various formats, including maps, tables, graphics
  • Quantitative literacy – the ability to apply arithmetic operations to numbers embedded in printed materials

The literacy ability of participants was measured on a scale from 0 to 500 based on findings of both tests that were four years apart.


The study took particular focus on work interruptions, which was defined as time off work, whether that be through unemployment, long-term illness, childcare etc. The study concluded that there was statistically strong evidence of a negative relationship between work interruptions and skills. Their estimates implied that one year out of work would move an individual 5 percentile points down the skills distribution. In addition the wage reduction would account for between 16 and 29 percent.


This information is staggering, it shows that there is direct correlation between work interruptions and a persons skill level. So let’s apply this to our sales role. The moment I stop cold calling for a month, a quarter or a year the more skill level I will lose in this area. We must use the skill or lose it and what a waste it would be to lose it. Think of the countless hours you have spent grafting, dial after dial all to throw that skill set away just because you’ve developed a customer base. So exercise your cold calling, even if it’s just a few calls every week, as the saying goes, every little helps.

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