What You Should Know About Sales Habits

What You Should Know About Sales Habits

What if everything we think we know about habits is wrong? How does someone start listening to a podcast once and then follow it daily? We’ve heard that it takes “21 days to create a habit” and “10,000 hours to become an expert,” but what if it’s not a one-size-fits-all for habits? This article explores sales habits—the good, the bad, and the science.

William James, the prominent psychologist and philosopher, wrote in 1890, “The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.” For sales professionals, the more mental resources we free up with automatic behaviors, the higher our cognitive abilities will be. But this is only half true because Professor James assumes we will only automate good habits.

The Basics

New habits such as ice baths, cold showers, and inferred light therapy are gaining some buzz in the personal performance world. But in sales, we often overlook the basic habits that can make a substantial difference. When we talk about habits for sales professionals, less is often more. Removing negative habits takes less energy than developing new ones.

A big mistake we can make in sales is trying to overthink big breakthroughs while underacting on the basics. It’s like adding 100 horsepower to a car with a flat tire. When we get back to the basics, we can avoid the harmful patterns derailing our performance. Let’s review how to check the air in our sales tires:

  1. Consistent Sleep Schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps regulate your body clock, improving energy levels and mental focus. Remember what we were told about selling and the early bird?
  2. Morning Routine: Starting the day with a consistent routine—exercise, meditation, journaling, or a healthy breakfast. If it’s good for you, make it non-negotiable.
  3. Prioritize Tasks: Create a to-do list and prioritize tasks for the day. The habit of physically writing them down on paper will make you more likely to achieve them.
  4. Regular Breaks: Take short breaks throughout the day to recharge. You can’t run your race car in the red all day.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Keep a water bottle at hand and ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day. Dehydration can affect cognitive function.
  6. Physical Movement: Incorporate physical activity into your day, whether walking, stretching, or quick exercises. Movement boosts energy and concentration.
  7. Mindfulness and Relaxation: Practice mindfulness, such as deep breathing or brief meditation. It will help manage stress and improve focus.
  8. Regular Learning: Dedicate time daily to learn something new related to sales techniques, industry updates, or personal development. Learners are earners in sales.
  9. Reflect and Review: Reflect on your results at the end of the day. This practice is key for continuous improvement.
  10. CRM Maintenance: In sales, we often skip this to our detriment.
  11. Disconnect Time: Make time to disconnect and unwind so you can recharge from sales-related stress.
  12. Gratitude: Daily sales gratitude helps maintain a positive mindset and fosters strong relationships with clients and colleagues.

If you are like my twenty-something self, you might think, “I don’t have time for all that; I need to sell.” Incorporating these sales habits into your daily routine is guaranteed to enhance productivity, mental clarity, and overall well-being, all of which are good things in sales.

Time Blocks and Deadlines

In the chaos of a sales day, it can feel like we are juggling chainsaws. Jumping from trying to fill our pipeline to a sales meeting and then back to prospecting is not an optimal sales process. However, for some of us, there’s something about that fast-paced, hectic day that we like.

Because we’ve added more and more technology to the sales stack, it only intensifies potential distractions. In sales, time is what we need most, but use the worst. The solution is simple in theory but not easy in practice: time blocks and deadlines. Here’s what it can look like:

First thing in the morning, create a time block for the one thing you dread doing the most. For many of us, this is prospecting. When you add a deadline, say 60 minutes, you create a sprint to see how many contacts you can reach.

Time blocks and deadlines create a consistent structure for the critical activities that drive sales success. Instead of asking what you should work on next, you have time for prospecting, follow-ups, client interaction, and strategic planning. When sales professionals say, “I don’t have time,” what they are usually saying is, “I don’t want to.”

Neuroscience of Habits

Habits are deeply ingrained patterns of behavior that involve the brain’s dopamine neurons. This dopamine signaling process creates a neural pathway that promotes behaviors with decreased reliance on conscious decision-making. This dopamine delivery explains why people sleep with cell phones.

Such habitual behavior tends to override our best intentions, even when we consciously intend to act differently. The hallmark of addiction shares characteristics with habitual behavior: continuing actions despite adverse consequences. Habits, both productive and unproductive, indicate a loss of flexibility in decision-making because we do them without thinking.

Habits can be process-driven by repeated practice and/or the presence of rewards. To maximize effectiveness, the reward should trigger dopamine. The more dopamine, the faster you create a habit. For example, people who never gambled and did not expect to win but did on their first attempt are more likely to repeat the behavior. This explains why boring sales training does not influence behavior change, nor dopamine.

Furthermore, recent research shows the brain learns habits better in groups. B.J. Fogg is a leading expert in behavior design at Stanford University. Fogg emphasizes the role of social support in habit formation. His research proves the effectiveness of social systems and helps in creating habits. Groups promote motivation, accountability, and learning through observations, all impacting behaviors.

Habitual behavior contrasts with goal-directed actions. While goal-directed actions are driven by desired outcomes, habits persist even when results are no longer favorable. This disconnect from results indicates that habits operate with reduced reliance on reinforcement created. Although habits free up brain resources, they also pose risks, potentially leading to bad habits, compulsions, or even addictions. This explains why people are addicted to checking their phone every five minutes.

In essence, habits represent automatic, inflexible behavioral patterns shaped by past experiences. While they offer efficiency for sales professionals, they can also override our best intentions and operate independently. For sales professionals whose routines dominate our daily activities, periodic reviews prevent complacency and improve efficiency.

The 5 R method

The 5 R method is a process for habit formation and change. It stands for Reminder, Routine, Reward, Review, and Refine. Here’s how it applies to cultivating habits for sales professionals:

  1. Reminder: Create a clear trigger or cue that prompts the habit. For sales professionals, this could involve setting reminders for daily prospecting calls, using visual cues such as sticky notes, and associating the habit with a specific time of day.
  2. Routine: Establish a consistent routine for the habit. Your brain loves repetition; the more you repeat something, the more neuro pathways you create. Having a structured routine helps build habits more effectively.
  3. Reward: Attach a positive reward to reinforcement to the habit. Your brain likes to feel good about doing something and releases dopamine. In sales, we are more likely to repeat an action if we get dopamine. So, reward yourself for the little victories. Grab a coffee, or ring the gong, whatever releases dopamine for you.
  4. Review: Regularly assess your habit’s impact. Your brain loves to work efficiently. Find ways to remove resistance to desired outcomes and add resistance to undesirable outcomes. Does having notifications on for Instagram improve performance?
  5. Refine: Based on the review, refine and optimize your sales habits. Adjust the reminder if it’s not effectively triggering the behavior, tweak the routine for better efficiency, modify the reward system if needed, and refine the habit itself to align more closely with your sales objectives.

For sales professionals, using the 5 R method might involve:

  • Setting reminders for prospecting activities.
  • Establishing a routine for daily client outreach.
  • Rewarding oneself for meeting sales targets.
  • Reviewing performance metrics regularly.
  • Refining the approach based on feedback and results.

By following these simple steps, sales professionals can develop and reinforce positive habits contributing to success.


For sales professionals, repetition is the precursor of success. Habits are the backbone of repetition; those automatic behaviors that yield immense power and quietly steer our actions.

The key to high performance isn’t found in the grandiose theories; it’s in the small—our daily sales habits. Whether you call them routines, rituals, or compulsions, these ingrained behaviors shape our performance.

The challenge is not creating new sales habits but changing unproductive habits and mastering intentional behaviors moving forward.