Can Salespeople Really Change Their Habits?

A short time ago, I spent the week with my sister, my uncle, and one of my nephews, cleaning out my parents’ house to prepare it to sell. Along with the usual sharing of stories or excitement over items long-thought lost, I ran across an assessment from my preschool days – which is pictured in part above.

My first thought: Uproarious laughter and posting to Facebook, to the intense amusement and jokes of and from my friends. My second thought: Hey, this would make a good sales blog post topic (Yes, I’m that nerdy).

When comparing Adult Tim to Preschool Tim (who was very naughty), I’m struck by how little I’ve changed in some respects. I still hate making choices, get distracted easily (the attention thing of Point 5), and often don’t answer questions (Full disclosure: In many cases, this last is due to not hearing the question as a result of my hearing impairment, which nobody realized I had until sometime after this report was written).

As for the rest of it, I’ve developed into a patient, laid-back person who doesn’t mind waiting for their turn, I’m respectful of other people’s property, and frequently listen to music and consume stories – whether reading or binging streaming services (I could go on at length about the deficiencies of character, pacing, and narrative structure that plagued the post-GRRM material seasons of Game of Thrones).

To connect this to sales, think about your own habits, tendencies, and idiosyncrasies that you had when you were a kid. Do you still have any of them today? If you do, how do they impact you on your job? As you can imagine, in my case, the distraction is definitely a thing – as evidenced by the plethora of tabs I have open in my browser at any given time.

In some cases, the areas for improvement we had as kids go away over time. We eventually learn how to master them and become fully functioning adults (at least theoretically). Other situations will stick with us – they’re just so intrinsically embedded in who we are that nothing can change it.

For sales reps, one of the most common examples is phone anxiety. No matter how many calls you make and conversations you have, the first one of your day still feels like plunging into the icy waters of Lake Michigan on a winter morning.

In those instances where our issues are firmly rooted, the trick becomes not to eliminate them, but work with and around them. As an example, I’ve built up the habit of working in short, focused bursts of activity and allow myself distractions that are relevant to the job (primarily research or thinking about various projects). The end result is that I’m more productive and faster than a lot of people who aren’t prone to lapses in attention – thereby turning what looks like a limitation into a strength.

So that phone anxiety? Probably never leaving completely. Instead, you’ll figure out a way to navigate around it – whether it’s meticulous preparation through research of the client, prepping anticipated questions and answers, and rehearsing same, or some sort of mental calming exercise, another tactic, or a combination strategy. This can, in turn, actually end up making you a better sales professional paradoxically because of that seemingly negative personality trait – you’re much more prepared for that conversation than another rep who doesn’t pre-plan as much for their calls, for example.

The things that you can change for the better, you should – such as reinforcing yourself on sales training you’re received, for example, until the skills and knowledge have become encoded in your long-term memory and habits.

For those intrinsic, intractable items that are irreversibly embedded as part of your personality, explore ways of trying to harness them to your advantage and work with them to make you a better sales professional. It might be difficult at first to determine which of your opportunities for improvement fall into which bucket, but once you suss that out and engage in a plan of action to address them, you’ll find yourself performing at a higher level than you thought possible.

What are some personality quirks that you have, and how do you manage them into your own work process and flow?