Breaking Bad Sales Habits

Our bad behaviors are not isolated incidents blooming from the ether. Eating a whole bag of cookies is no accident: We’re trying to fill a hole; we’re disappointed in life; our relationships are circling the drain. Money worries have us biting our nails and not even realizing we’re doing it. Our vision is clouded by low numbers and we’re making the same old sales mistakes time and time again. Whatever the causes, our behaviors turn into habits, which turn into patterns. Before we know it, we’re out in public in gut-accommodating sweatpants, our nails are all chawed up, and we’re not making our quotas.

There are plenty of causes when it comes to engaging in bad sales habits. Consider some of the following:

  • We’re feeling desperate because we’ve failed to hit our projected numbers
  • We’re burning with envy because that rep who makes it all look so easy is having another day in the sun
  • Because we haven’t had a win in a while, we’re craving that bolstering feeling of accomplishment

In particular, let’s look at desperation. Because most often—and most destructively—it is the underlying cause of bad sales habits. Your intellect, your training, any skills you’ve developed over the years can all be subsumed by the lumbering monster of desperation, that primal instinct to get ahead no matter what. When you give in to desperation, you’re throwing out all the learning you’ve achieved over time. Losing that big deal, for example, may have you working on blind impulse with the next prospect by:

  • Talking first and saying way too much. You can’t talk your way into a sale when all you hear is the sound of your own voice. First and foremost, actively listen to the customer to gain a solid understanding of the context of and obstacles inherent in their particular challenge.
  • Engaging in manipulative questioning. If you’re going into a customer meeting with your cynical inner voice repeating, “Yeah, whatever, I’ve heard it all and then some”—your customers will sniff that out. Even if you do manage to get the sale, chances are you won’t have given the customer what they really need, since you won’t have actively listened your way to full comprehension of their problem. In other words, you can kiss goodbye any future business with that organization—they’ll chock you up to a manipulator. Begin the meeting by asking open-ended questions that allow the prospect to talk. You’ll get to the root of their problem, and they may get to it too—often customers need to talk through their issues to uncover the real dilemma facing them.
  • Stampeding to the close. You’re not running with the bulls at Pamplona. When you want to win so badly, you’ll tend to go over the customer’s head. Take your time, letting the process proceed naturally; you’ll know when it’s right to ask for their business.

So how do you fight that temptation to be a desperado? Start by slowing down, taking deep breaths, and removing the emotion from selling.

Food for Thought
Don’t sell hungry. If the sales call is cake, remember your diet and don’t wolf it down. Whether presenting or just checking in, be prepared for each and every customer touchpoint. And put aside your interest in closing the sale. Instead, be a trusted advisor, keeping in your customer’s challenges and concerns at the forefront of your mind throughout the entire sales process.

Avoid going to the dark side over lost sales. Everyone loses sales sometimes. Get over it. Learn from it. Remain positive by embracing a sense of plenty when you look at your pipeline and prospects. You’re working on other opportunities; those need your positive energy now.

Finally, keep in mind the following common-sense behaviors that no sales rep should be without if they want to be seen as a consummate professional.

Put Your Customers First
If you’ve listened to your customers and have identified their challenges, proceed by tailoring a solution and aligning it with their needs. You’ll increase the likelihood of kicking off a successful business relationship with a highly relevant solution that will clearly solve their pain.

Proceed With a Plan
Presentation run-throughs will make a huge difference in how you come off to a customer. You’ll exude calm and confidence. That makes you and your solution more appealing to the prospect—it feels good too!

Invest in Your Time
Chances are your pipeline is full-to-bursting with leads. Go after the ones with better odds of resulting in meaningful business relationships, storing the marginally interested prospects for another point and time—when they may have moved down the pipeline toward the “serious buyer” junction.

Remember that whatever your bad sales habits are, you can break them. But admitting there’s a problem—and addressing it—is the first step.