Having been a sales professional, executive, president of a multi-million dollar company, sales trainer and coach, I am often asked what it REALLY takes to be successful in sales. And while knowing the right sales strategies is extremely important, it’s just as important to develop powerful sales habits that allow you to create and sustain your sales success.
Too often I see people attend all kinds of training seminars, get super excited about what they just learned, only to return to their office without having changed any bad sales habits for the long haul. That’s the exact reason why I am committed to sales training sessions that integrate experiential learning because once you’ve experienced it and gotten it “in the muscle,” you have the skills to begin building new sales habits.
A habit is simply an automatic behavior or a behavior that you don’t have to think about. A bad sales habit would be not following up with your prospects. A good sales habit would be having time on your calendar every week to make follow-up sales calls.
Research shows that when you change one sales habit, it can positively impact other areas of your life—the domino effect. Research also shows that it might be easier, and faster, to change a bad habit than once thought. I was doing more research for my next book when I came across some work on habits by a gentleman named B.J. Fogg. Fogg’s body of work partially focuses on how long it takes for someone to change a habit. He has a program called “3 Tiny Habits,” which basically shows you that by tying a new habit to an existing habit, you can change a habit in as little as one week. The brilliance behind this method is that he is tying the new habit to something you are already doing, which makes it easier to insert the new behavior.
In another one of my favorite books, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg shows us the loop of a habit: Cue, Routine and then Reward. From a bad habit perspective, let’s use smoking as an example. My mom smoked for 35 years. After I attended the NLP Institute of California, I came away with a toolbox filled with tools to help her quit (which she did). But one of the main things she needed to do was to change the habit loop. For my mom, cigarettes were her self-described “best friend.” They got her through the good times and the bad times and every time in between. Essentially, whenever she felt any kind of emotion, or just wanted to bond with her husband and friends, she grabbed a cigarette. As much as the nicotine had a hold on her, so did the habit.
We utilized a variety of NLP techniques to help her quit smoking, including belief change and visualization processes. All of them helped. But once she inserted a new routine and reward into her loop, she was able to create the habit of staying quit. It’s one thing to quit a habit; it’s another thing to “stay quit.” When my mom would feel the urge to grab a cigarette (the cue), she would grab a piece of hard candy or even a stuffed straw to suck on (the routine) and then she would feel better (the reward). Maybe not as great as she thought she felt before, but her emotions improved enough to create a new habit.
So that’s how you change a habit. One of the new habits she added that improved her overall health was walking every day. The mornings were hardest for her so when she wanted to have that first cigarette, she went for a walk instead. She always had coffee or hot tea in the morning, so she tied her new walking habit to that habit. She would have her hot beverage and then head out for her walk. According to Fogg’s work, that’s the fastest and easiest way to create a new habit—simply tie it to an existing habit.
I use my mom quitting smoking as an example because she utilized these ideas to change a really tough habit. By seeing how she was able to do it, I want to encourage YOU to kick a bad sales habit because it will be even easier for you.
I have worked with many clients who wanted to add a new habit of making regular sales calls to their schedule. But no matter what they did, the just couldn’t make it happen. Can you relate? They tried scheduling them early. They tried scheduling them late in the day. They even tried scheduling them at lunch, but nothing seemed to work.
Because they hadn’t created a new habit. Instead, they were “trying” to make it happen. Notice that the word try makes you always feel like you are striving for something but never arrive? You need to make the decision to create a new habit and then it can change.
Steps to Kick a Bad Habit and Insert a New One:
- First, identify the bad habit you want to change. Example: Not following up with prospects.
- Then, decide that you are going to create a new sales habit. Example: You want to begin following up regularly with your prospects to set appointments.
- Next, identify an existing habit you can tie it to. Example: Every morning, without fail, you check your email immediately when you come into the office.
- Decide how to shift the habit: Example: To kick the bad habit and insert the new habit, give yourself 20 minutes to check your email and then immediately go into 30-60 minutes of follow-up calls.
- Follow through every day until you know it is an established new habit. Example: Add it to your calendar for the rest of the year!
Imagine what will happen to your sales results simply by having this new habit. If you have an off day and things don’t go as planned, don’t give up. Simply go back to your behavior. After all, there will be days when things don’t go as planned, but it doesn’t mean that your new habit hasn’t become automatic. Brushing your teeth is probably an automatic habit, but there might be a day or two during the year when you might just be so exhausted that you fall into bed with teeth that aren’t perfectly clean. And you even survive!
Take the time to go through the steps today so you can create powerful habits for tomorrow.