Cold calls, emails, presentations, client meetings—every salesperson knows how to do them.
Salespeople learn to do these in practice, during company trainings, and sales conferences. The rules and mechanics are almost universal, and the difference you hear is usually just a matter of semantics.
If the sales trade is an open book anyone can read, then why do salespeople get different results?
Why do some sales front liners close deals faster than other agents?
Why do some people hit their quota, while some trail behind their targets?
We can barely hear you say, “because they’ve got the charm, the looks, the technique. Because they’re cut out for this job.”
If you think the same, then this list is the cure to your self-pity and doubt.
Winning the sales game is not a birthright or a God-given talent. Selling is a skill, and some people are better at it because they’ve worked at it.
It’s what salespeople do besides selling that makes a difference in sales productivity. These are the habits, the fixed behavior and the established routine of a salesperson throughout the whole sale process. Most of us take these habits for granted, but in truth, they lay the foundations of our work ethic and business strategy.
Before acquiring habits that drive sales performance, salespeople have to think of a sale in a new light. A sale is not an isolated event that happens on its own. It is actually the culmination of a series of actions.
Everything that you do during the sale process be it having coffee in the morning with your boss to checking your email after every break or spending 10 minutes talking with someone from marketing—all of these form a routine that determines your sales performance at the end of the day.
The sale process is a challenging journey, and every salesperson develops his or her own routine along the way. Not all of our habits inspire good results. If you’ve been falling below the chart for some time, then there is definitely something you have to change your routine. Butch Bellah, author of the book, The 10 Essential Habits of Sales Superstars, believes that our daily routine heavily impacts the end game, and that “if you change your habits, you change your results.”
Salespersons reach optimum performance by imbibing a set of habits that boosts productivity and outcomes.
Here’s a list of 40 habits that can make a sales front liner a superstar in the biz.
Sets goals and monitors them
A Harvard study revealed that people who stick to their goals and continuously monitor their progress perform 30% better than others. Authors of the study attribute the outstanding performance to the higher motivation people feel when they have goals to meet. People get more fired up, and end up achieving more.
Different salespersons need different goals. Some buckle under the pressure of ambitious goals, while others thrive on the challenge. The type of goal to set also depends on the strength and weakness of sales agents.
Whatever the goals may be, the most important part is monitoring whether you make your goals or not. You don’t need a sales manager to call you out when you miss on something. Treat your sales goals as a covenant with yourself and you’ll find it harder to break them.
Makes public announcements about future achievements
If goals are not enough pressure for you, then try public anticipation.
This is the technique Aaron Ross, author of the bestselling book Predictable Revenue, uses to achieve top performance at his own pace and time. Tired of following the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) model in goal setting, he began working on a new approach to work. He calls this Showing Your ASS, from Announcing Specific outcome by a Specific Date.
Ross’s funny acronym makes sense, especially if you are the type of salesperson who finds it hard to get the ball rolling and misses on the small outcomes you need to get the big result you want.
He says, “The best part about showing your ASS is that it’s also totally within your control and you can’t hide from it because you’ve announced it.”
Studies the product extensively
A good salesperson is expected to know the product inside out. A top sales agent goes beyond this, and devotes extra time to study the product extensively—examining flaws, comparing it with competing products, and believing in the capacity of the product to provide solutions to real-life problems.
According to Insight Squared, the top 1% of sales reps has deep product knowledge. What’s more, several studies have already shown that people who have clear intent to buy are drawn towards sales agents who show extensive knowledge of the product. The training app provider Wranx shares, “Retail sales associates with strong brand expertise sell 87 percent more than peers without.” The huge number is more than enough proof that knowledge sells.
Asks questions before making a proposal
Customers these days are empowered buyers.
They know their rights, they have information at their fingertips, and they have networks that help them confirm whether a provider is okay or not. To get on their good side, you need to communicate that you are here to help—without telling them so.
The most effective way to let them know you are after their best interests is by asking questions. Training and Development specialist Brian Tracy says effective listening is key to a successful sales practice. Effective listening involves:
- Asking the right questions
- Never interrupting the client while he/she is speaking
- Responding appropriately
- Clarifying his/her answers before giving a reply
Knows selling is helping
A successful salesman does not ask his client “What can you buy from me?” Instead, he asks himself “How can I help this client?” and works towards that achieving that goal.
Square 2 Marketing CEO Mike Lieberman says the time of hard-selling agents is already done. He adds, “It’s time to fire your salespeople and then hire Sales Guides with a new mission — to help your prospects make a strong, educated, and safe purchase decision. People only buy when they feel safe. Salespeople need to help prospects feel safe by counseling them through their buyer journey. “
Tries to imbibe the customers’ thoughts and feelings
When your prospect is giving you a hard time, the best response is to put yourself in his/her position and try to predict what he/she would like to hear. This requires you to know your client’s needs inside and out, and pay attention to the small details.
Highlights value over product and price
With the internet around, it has become increasingly hard to tell your client the best features of your product. Chances are, this information is already out online and your customer has read it even before you made your call.
Move away from talking about your product and instead focus on the benefits that the product can bring to your client. Use other conversation pieces, such as success stories of other clients or the practical value of your product for your client’s needs.
Upholds integrity and honesty in every sale
They don’t want to hear the best things about your product or your company. They only want you to be honest and to tell the truth. And believe us when we tell you, they will know if you’re too good to be true.
Alen Mayer, President of the International Association of NLP Sales Professionals, warns salespeople against trying to seduce introverts with sweet talk.
“When introverts find out that the salesperson doesn’t know what he or she is talking about, they shut down the conversation. To win an introvert’s respect, you need to prove your credibility using third-party endorsements, certifications, and awards your product or company won. Introverts don’t usually get swept away by a sales pitch, but they can be influenced by objective reviews or media coverage.”
Salespeople are always guilty of promising clients something.
Promise to give you a discount. Promise to give you a free trial. Promise to increase your ROI.
Promises, promises, promises. It’s the oldest and cheapest trick in the sales book, and customers know much about them as you do.
Promises are great devices of persuasion, but they can be your downfall too. When you make promises you can’t keep, such as double ROI in three months, you are sure to get an earful from your unsatisfied customer.
Use promises to your advantage by sticking an old business truism: underpromise and overdeliver. Melinda Emerson writes for Nextiva, “By promising one thing (5-day delivery, for example) and beating expectations (2-day delivery) you’ll surprise and delight your customers. And that will keep them coming back.”
Puts personal and professional information where clients can easily find them (online presence)
Being visible online is a must for salespeople. Rick Roberge, co-founder of Unbound Growth, has sound advice for salespeople in this digital age.
“As soon as a salesperson identifies himself, their prospect probably Googles them and their company and finds them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social platforms. Salespeople should make their best stuff easy to find and make sure that what the prospect finds aligns with the conversation.”
A habit to develop: check your social media profiles every week and upload new content such as a blog or article to keep your accounts updated.
Joins LinkedIn groups
Everyone in the sales business has to be on LinkedIn, or else risk missing out on updates and opportunities in the business. To maximize your presence on LinkedIn, start joining LinkedIn groups and raise your chances of closing more deals.
Vorsight Co-Founder Steve Richard says you are “70% more likely to get an appointment with someone on an unexpected sales call if you cite a common LinkedIn group than if you don’t.”
LinkedIn groups are amazing venues to meet new professionals and exchange ideas with them. When you join these groups, allot time in a week to check on the group’s activity and give your fair share of views to let other group members know you better.
Caution: Never ever use a LinkedIn group just to spam and promote your product. You will end up with more haters than prospects if you just use a LinkedIn group for self-promotion.
Asks for new prospects and referrals (even from people who say no)
Beat the pain of rejection by getting prospects out of a dead call. Get referrals even from people who’ve already rejected your offer, to make your time on the phone with them count. The next best thing to closing a deal is getting a new prospect.
Maps prospects and conquers one territory after another
Top salespeople know that randomness never gets you anywhere near the quota. The best approach to sales calls or email blasts is a systematic one, where the plan is clear and the goals achievable.
A geographical approach works best, says Jeb Blount, CEO of SalesGravy.com. He says, “The best salespeople map or grid their territory by day. They then plan their appointments and calls each day, within the grid, thus reducing wasted drive time. The key is leveraging the CRM to run call lists by geography based attributes.”
Sales agents that do this are more productive and turn in more numbers at the end of the day. Start this habit and literally cover more ground every day.
The organic way of marketing is still the best way to promote a service or product. When you have satisfied clients that speak out for you, your reputation grows and your market base expands. You can achieve this when you choose to go small, conquering one territory after another before launching a large-scale sales effort.
Ryan Denehy of Groupon reminds sales agents to seek the multiplier effect that a constrained market provides. In 64 Things I Wish I Knew, he writes:
“When you have a product with seemingly broad appeal you’ll be tempted to sell nationwide, or to move into multiple verticals. This works if you’re a well-resourced company but in general it’s best to identify the smallest market where you can have success and knock that shit down. “
Let’s face it, the sales game can get pretty tight, especially for SaaS ventures and other tech products. Some people say that doing your damnest best will get you ahead, but sometimes, sheer passion just ain’t enough.
Knowing how your competitors are doing is basic for top performing salespeople. Jamie Shanks of Partner at Sales for Life advises sales teams to build a central repository of deals made by your competitors to know which prospects are out. This repository is part of what Shanks calls competitive intelligence in social selling.
Competitive Intelligence helps you focus efforts on the best leads you have, instead of engaging people who are already on the way to signing up with other people. To do this right, you need to log in your LinkedIn account more regularly and monitor what your connections are up to.
On the Job
Asks high-value questions
Salespeople in full control of the conversation can do what many are afraid to do: ask the hard and high-value questions.
These smart questions range from queries on the state of business, to the solutions the owners have resorted to. You have to show clients that “you have done your homework,” says Arturo Riera, Marketing Consultant for Academy of Art University. Asking straight questions also reduces the time spent on each call.
Prefers LinkedIn messages to emails
Another technique to catch the attention of your client is to send your message through LinkedIn. Emailed messages tend to get lost in the pile of emails a business receives every day. LinkedIn messages are more personal and tend to get noticed more quickly as fewer people use LinkedIn messaging.
Admit it or not, canned messages make life easier for salespeople. Before making calls or sending emails, check your template and customize messages, adding bits or personal touches to make your mail sound more authentic and inviting.
Rehearses lines like a committed actor
The best salespeople know the value of a single voicemail. It’s not a simple call. It’s a performance.
To get the perfect voicemail, you need to compose your message beforehand and practice before recording it. This is what Michael Pedone, founder of Salesbuzz, advises salespeople to do so they can avoid panicking once they hear the beep.
Even better, salespeople can tailor their calls with “perfect customizable voicemail messages with technology, like the PowerDialer from InsideSales.com.”
Uses dual monitors
Larry Reeves, COO at American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, believes that one simple habit can bring an additional $100 worth of productivity. His advice: Use dual monitors.
Dual monitors solve various problems for workers, like split screen, switching windows, and errors with clicking. Programmers and writers use two monitors to work on one monitor and simultaneously view the results on the other screen. For salespeople, two monitors mean you can Google your prospect while writing them an email.
Keeps a huge “Electronic Rolodex” and uses it
An updated directory of clients and prospects is the most useful folder you will have throughout your sales career. Allot time to organize this data and keep this directory electronically, preferably in the cloud, so you can you can do research on who you will be meeting with prior to meetings or calls, as well as update the information after the events so that it is always current.
Jeff Sheehan, author of Hired!Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era, says this collection of contact information is integral to networking and marketing success. He adds:
“Although it may be a bit time consuming to ‘load’ this data into a spreadsheet or a much preferred CRM system once you receive a business card or other contact from someone, the time that you’ll save trying to find this information and access it later will be incredible if it is always at your fingertips.”
Spends more quality time with customers
When you are not busy making phone calls, meeting clients or talking with leads, then you are not doing the job you should do. Salespeople should spend more time customers to cultivate a deep and lasting relationship with them. But, mere quantity is not enough. As the competition gets tougher, salespeople should give more than just time to their clients—you have to give them your undivided attention.
VoloMetrix CEO Ryan Fuller studied top sales performers and found out that those at the top spend up to 33% more time with customers each week. These same top performers interacted with 40% fewer accounts over a three-month period. These findings suggest that to close more deals, sales front liners must first prioritize their leads, and engage them longer than other sales agents would.
Tells great stories with drama and emotion
Storytelling is an important skill in the sales business. Advertisements, from print, commercials and other types of media, capitalize on the power of a narrative to move a person. Salespeople use the same technique, and even attend workshops on seminars to improve on this skill.
Many experts offer tips on storytelling. Daniel Ambrose, Managing Partner of Media Consulting Firm, says “When it comes to storytelling, the opening should be dramatic and personal. The beginning of the sales conversation should focus on dramatizing the needs of the readers.” Ambrose thinks this is key to getting the customer more invested in the story and the outcome, which will eventually lead to making a sale.
Case studies or the stories of other clients, on the other hand, remain the best route for salespeople, according to Todd Hockenberry, owner of Top Line Results. He writes, “Case studies are also a versatile form of content. You can always get customer quotes as testimonials from any case study you create. These are great to add to your website, add to your email signature, and drop in other marketing materials.”
Reads and researches on customers before making a call
New sales technology gives sales agents access to customer data. Knowing these sets of information about a customer, you can better prepare for your call and compose the right kind of message for your prospect.
We often hear of customer data for marketing, but sales agents need to be apprised of what customers want as well. You can check out their LinkedIn profiles, twitter and facebook accounts, to get ideas on how to best engage your prospect.
Asks for feedback during the sales cycle
Top salespeople know they haven’t perfected the sales process. They always strive to improve, and are not afraid to ask for the opinion of others—may it be good or bad.
During sales calls, in meetings, or in correspondences with clients, take the time and effort to ask them for their honest assessment of the sales process. The feedback completes the sales cycle and strengthens the trust between you and the client. Whatever the client says, take it to heart and ponder on how you can use that comment to improve your next client’s experience.
Hates making customers wait
Selling is a bit like flirting. You need proper timing to seal the deal with your prospects. The worst thing you can do is make them wait, which makes them feel unwanted and neglected. Do that to your clients and you may get this heartless response—“I’ve moved on to another provider.”
Senior Director of Brand Innovations at Hipcricket Guy Borgford writes on a column for luxury daily, “As consumers seek the quickest path to information and entertainment, their loyalties lie not with the product, but with the provider. The key is to get them what they need when they need it.”
Presents something new to prospects on follow-ups
Following up on clients is standard procedure, and is crucial to clinching a deal. Add value to your follow-up by presenting your clients with something new—something you didn’t give them the first time you met.
This added value can be new information, a case study, deeper insight into their company’s needs, expert advice, among others. Prepare for these follow-ups and other calls by creating a desk hint sheet. This sheet can give you story cues and list down ideas you can try with clients. This tool is extremely helpful for people who have a hard time sparking conversations with clients.
Remembers special occasions
Clients are not buyers—they are people you have relationships with! Make them feel special and cared for by greeting them on special occasions, especially dates that mark your business partnership. Send them cards on the day they double their revenue, or the day that marks a phenomenal profit growth.
Persists despite rejection
This is not just a habit that you have to cultivate—it’s an attitude about work. A study from Dartnell Corp said that 90% of salespersons give up after four tries without getting results. Don’t be part of the 90% and persist. Remember this: the tough clients to crack can become your most loyal customers. All it takes to make that happen is patience and perseverance.
Steers clear of the paperwork (and focuses on selling more)
Everyone hates paperwork, but these are necessary for company operations and so people have to put up with it. The problem is, for the sales department, taking on paperwork takes away precious time that could have been devoted to doing revenue-generating tasks—like making a call or meeting a client.
Wendy Weiss, President of ColdCallingResults.com, puts non-revenue generating activities like paperwork at the bottom of a salesperson’s priority list. She recommends delegating those tasks to other people, or doing them during off hours. Her high-priority items:
“Meetings or conversations with existing customers to potentially sell additional products or services would be high on the list. Prospecting is a high priority item although it’s further down the list than meeting with a prospect who is about to say, “yes.”
Does a weekly review every weekend
Start Monday on a high by doing your homework on the weekend. Follow Solutions Staffing Chief Sales Officer Anthony Iannarino’s example and gain more focus and attention. His routine involves “spending time on Sunday doing a weekly review and putting the most important tasks and outcomes on your calendar.”
Keeps a running task list
Lists are popular ways to digest information. However complex something is, when it gets to a list, it somehow becomes simpler and easier to understand. That’s why many of the blogs you read (including this one) frequently use the list form.
Smooth Sale CEO Elinor Stutz relies on a running task list to keep herself organized and focused.
“How this works is, at the end of the work week (when everything is fresh in your mind), list bigger projects that need to be completed the following week. And, at the end of each working day, list the projects that need to be completed the following day. Even though interruptions pop up, you are on top of what truly needs to be accomplished.”
Lists have also helped Stutz track her accomplishments more efficiently. If you adopt the same habit, you would have more control over your tasks and your time.
Focuses on one task at a time
We know how much salespeople love to flatter themselves by saying they can “multi-task.” They can juggle calls, emails, meetings, the list can go on and on.
Before we go any further, please remember this: multi-tasking is a myth.
Sales accelerator Jill Konrath busts the myth of multi-tasking. She says, “With multitasking affecting your intellectual capacity, it also drags tasks out when you are trying to save time. Research shows that anytime you are learning something new, multitasking can slow you down 20-40%. That is a huge hit to productivity!”
Gets adequate sleep and stays positive
Salespeople need to be enthusiastic and positive to elicit affirmative responses. Clients don’t want to talk to a grumpy salesperson, who can’t focus because of lack of sleep. When a client hears a happy, positive tone over the phone, he/she feels better and is more likely to entertain your proposal.
We know that selling is a stressful business, but aim for a complete rest to start your day and your calls in the right mood. Sleep for eight hours and eat a healthy breakfast before leaving home. Psyche yourself to sound positive and engaging before picking up the phone to make a sales call.
Growth and Improvement
Expands his/her sales network
Top performing sales agents tend to have more friends and acquaintances in the business. They have a network that is 30 to 40% larger than average, according to a VoloMetrix study.
A wide customer database directly contributes to better sales, but how do more frequent and deeper interactions with fellow sellers increase a salesperson’s performance?
Ryan Fuller of VoloMetrix explains: “It makes sense that people who find ways to build more relationships get exposed to more ideas from across the business, are able to access expertise quickly when needed, and have more context about what’s happening. All of these things help them to be successful.”
Regularly checks and updates his/her LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the first place clients go to when searching a salesperson or a company. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, listing all your achievements, seminars attended, and posting new content you may have written or produced.
Shares tips and best practices with the entire company
Some people say that the best people in the business keep the secrets of their trade. For us, it’s the opposite. The best salespeople share what they know, and help the sales practice develop further.
Propagate good sales practices in the company by sharing tips and lessons you’ve learned with at least one of your peers every day. Sharing of ideas and experience helps create a culture of excellence, something that everyone will benefit from.
Coordinates with the marketing department
The smart salespeople know they can’t do their work alone. Connecting with the marketing people is a step forward for any sales effort. As Leo Dirr says, “With increasingly self-educated buyers, the roles of sales and marketing are becoming harder to define and distinguish. The most successful teams marry the two functions as closely as possible.”
The perfect harmony between sales and marketing can result in great things for the company. Machine giant IBM tested this theory, and came up with a new function they called Channel Enablement. What did IBM get? Shorter sales cycles, reduced market-entry costs, and lower sales costs. Overall, a successful experiment.
Read sales blogs and books
The process of learning never ends, and for top salespeople, they take this lesson to heart. The best salespeople read sales blogs and books to improve their skills, reading classics to visionary books authored by the experts in the business.
Saleshacker recommends 23 books that all salespeople should read, including Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale and Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Get started on a reading habit today, and increase your knowledge about the biz. If you find it hard to finish books, start reading one chapter a day, or one blog post daily, until the habit sets in.
Ends each day by checking on his/her performance metrics
A top salesperson is growth-oriented, and seeks to develop his skills and knowledge to their highest potential. There’s no better way to know how you fared in a day than by visiting your metrics and reviewing whether you met your targets.
Before going home, ask yourself:
- How many calls did I make?
- How many calls was I supposed to make?
- How many people said yes?
- How many people said no?
- How much time did I put to selling?
- How much time was wasted?
Many offices are now installed with productivity software to help you better monitor your performance. Use these numbers as inspiration to move ahead, and get better every day.
Developing healthy and successful sales habits need time.
A University College London study reported that it takes 66 days on average for a person to get accustomed to a new habit. The study observed 96 people, and in that set, 18 days was the shortest time recorded before somebody learned a new habit.
The time to master a new habit depends on your resolve to change and improve your sales routine. Start adopting new sales habits today, and reap the benefits in the near future!
FREE EBOOK: 21 Tips Seasoned Sales Reps Won't Tell You
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- Recognizing buying cues
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