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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

How to Break Bad Sales Habits

The new year is the perfect opportunity to get rid of bad habits, especially when those bad habits are hurting your sales. Here are some tips to create good sales habits.
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New year...new exercise plan...new diet...new opportunity to break bad habits. I was recently reading Charles Duhigg's book "The Power of Habit" and I realized that so much of our behaviors are related to habits—the body's natural and unconscious responses to triggers. Regardless of whether it is eating, biting our nails, or sales mistakes, there are patterns that explain a lot of our harmful behaviors. Duhigg explains that habits form in the following cycle: Trigger--Routine--Reward. That same cycle can be seen with bad sales habits.

What are the triggers that lead to bad sales habits?—One of the biggest triggers is that of "needing a sale." Sometimes the need comes from being short of quota or behind in projections. Sometimes it's the need for a win because you feel like you have not had one in a while and you want that feeling of accomplishment. Another trigger could be a bragging co-worker who has just landed a sale and you want the attention back on you. The point is that the trigger causes you to become immediately hungry for a sale.

How do bad sales habits lead to bad routines?—When we "need" a sale, our intellect, training and skills become subverted by our animal instincts. These routines can really damage all of the good learning we have achieved over time. I remember meeting with a prospect for a big piece of business. Our team had a plan, but just as we were walking up to the door I got a call that we had lost a big customer. Immediately I was hungry. I walked in and blew the meeting, violating every sales maxim I had developed over time. Hunger ate my brain and I went into bad routine. Here are some of those routines:

  1. Talking first—"Show up and throw up" is the old term for it. Launching into a presentation on your product before fully understanding the context and problems of the customer.
  2. Talking most—This includes one-upsmanship on every client response or example. It is a way in a sales call to demonstrate expertise that usually just creates annoyance.
  3. Asking to manipulate—Leading questions, closed-ended questions and statements disguised as questions are all tools that decision-makers can see through as your way to drive them to a decision quickly.
  4. Closing to sell—Rushing the process of securing an order by closing hard can create a disconnect with the decision-maker.

Just like me, you know that these are bad routines to follow. However, when I'm hungry in a sales call, I often feel like I am watching myself from the outside as I step into these routines.

What to do:

  • First, never sell hungry. For me, I have to prepare for a sales call by mentally eliminating my interest in the closing of the sale and replace it with my honest desire to help the other company make a good decision. By changing my reward it is easier to change my routine from "selling" to "problem-solving."
  • Second, create a context of plenty. By looking at my pipeline, calendar and contacts it helps me remain calm that there are many opportunities on the horizon and no single opportunity will dictate my success.
  • Third, never let them see you sweat. I know that I give up my strength and confidence, (which is death in a sales call), when I step into bad routines. By following my routines of question preparation, creating a context of plenty in my mind and focusing on the problem to be solved rather than the sale to be gained, I keep my head in the right place.

Bad habits are triggered not planned. Recognize your bad habits and work to create good ones so the triggers don't take control.

IMAGE: Lynn Koenig/Getty
Last updated: Jan 23, 2013

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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