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Muscle memory is an incredible thing. Think about the skills you’ve developed over your life, whether it was in little league, or behind an instrument, or from watching too many kung fu movies as a kid. Over time, if you stuck with the fundamentals, took your time, and really owned the learning of these new skills, they started to come naturally.
It’s safe to bet there are even things you haven’t done in decades that you could pick back up in a matter of hours thanks to this phenomenon. And that’s also why habits are so crucial in our life. Because good or bad, they’re actually really hard to kick. And so if we get caught for too long in the wrong habits, we’re only hurting ourselves—spending time, money and effort just to break a bad behavior.
But whether you’re starting with a totally fresh sales crew, or you’ve got a season group that you’re looking to develop into even smarter hunters, there’s never a bad time to teach good habits to your team. With that in mind, we’ve pulled up a few of the most important sales habits we’ve come to value over the years. Give yourself the next few weeks to master some of these habits, and watch how it dramatically forms the way you approach your work week.
It’s easy to mistake “doing something” with “doing something good.” We’re chronically busy—and for many of us, that’s often a license to relish in the busyness and not actually look at how much progress we are (or aren’t!) making. Once place that all too many salespeople are guilty of doing this is in the world of to-do lists. Sure, you can spend your morning dreaming up a massive to do list to show off to your boss, allowing them to fawn over your self-imposed sense of importance. But the truth is, lists like that often just bog us down. As Kevin Kruse notes for The Huffington Post, “When we have a long list of tasks, we tend to tackle those that can be completed quickly, leaving the longer items left undone.
Research from the company iDoneThis indicates that 41% of all to-do list items are never completed!” Keeping a list is admirable, sure, but if you’re just using it as a crutch to feel productive, that ultimately doesn’t help you—or anyone on your team. Instead, if you’re going to make a daily list, it should only be to prioritize the most important things for that day.
Alternatively, the best way to manage all of your tasks is to actually build them into your calendar. Rather than simply listing out everything you “need” to do, you’re now forced to given yourself time constraints in which to complete these tasks. Srinivas Rao puts this distinction very simply in his article on Medium: “When it comes to task completion the major difference between a calendar and a to-do list is that the calendar accounts for time. You’re forced to work within the constraints of the 24 hours that you have.
Not only that, given that there are only 24 hours it also reduces the paradox of choice. This tends to be great for scheduling time for high-level creative output.” If you’re looking not simply to fill your day with things to do, but instead apportion your day for the most important things, then making your calendar a to-do list is certainly the best way to go. In the ever-increasingly demanding life of a salesperson, this is an essential habit to make.
Following up on a sales call isn’t good protocol, it’s a thermometer for the kind of salesperson you’ve chosen to be. Following up, in effect, is about building relationships. When you aren’t in the habit of following up, and following up promptly with clients and prospects, you communicate to them that you don’t value the relationship, and are simply interested in a signature on a check. Conversely, getting into the habit of prompt follow-ups will help you to sound and feel natural when talking with a client, rather than projecting a cool, forced demeanor.
Those distinctions come through clearly to a client, and a warm, personal touch will only help you in learning more about their needs and capacity for doing business. If you’re not sure exactly what’s apropos in terms of timing, Rebecca Wilson for MarketingProfs advises this timeline: “We have a basic rule of thumb: All new contacts should have a first contact within three days of meeting them. After that, it depends how important they are to your business. You might follow up a cool prospect every second or third month, a warm prospect every month, and a hot prospect every week or two weeks.” Get in the habit of following up now. While it may feel difficult or awkward at first, it will only get easier as you go.
One way to quickly spin out of control in the sales world is to lose track of your data. From meeting notes, to client information, KPIs, and even sales call recordings, there’s too much to manage to leave it to chance. As a rule: as soon as the meeting, phone call, or email is done, make sure your data is written down. Better yet, automate your data to refresh on a leaderboard to easily stay up-to-date with a quick glance. As far as recorded calls go, hold on to them! These are incredibly valuable, as James Carbary points out: “Traditional wisdom says that managers should listen to the recorded calls of their sales reps and coach based on what they hear. However, this is a major time sucker, and as it turns out, it’s actually less effective than having the sales reps listen to their own conversations.”
By taking the time to go back through old calls, you’re not only prepping for your next conversation with a prospect, you’re also sharpening your skills as a salesperson. Additionally, in the spirit of organization, the Zoho blog has a whole list of helpful tips for keeping your data clean, like creating a style guide, making more fields “mandatory,” and avoiding double entries.
Finally, your most basic habit should always be to put the needs of your customer first. No matter who they are, how small their budget is, or how awkward your first follow-up call may have been, each and every customer is your best customer. When you treat them like gold, you’re setting a standard for yourself that’s the making of a true top achiever.
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