Webster’s dictionary defines the word habit as something that a person does in a regular and repeated way. After working with salespeople for over 20 years, I found the key differentiator between average salespeople and stellar salespeople is their daily habits.
Aristotle said it best. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Let’s take a look at the top three sales habits of top producers and examine the neuroscience and emotional intelligence skills behind the development of success habits.
Focus is the new competitive weapon for sales organizations. In a world where most people have the attention span of a gnat, you can win business by teaching your team the power of being present and focused.
Contrary to popular opinion, multi-tasking doesn’t work, particularly when a salesperson is learning a new skill or attitude. It has nothing to do with IQ, it has everything to do with how the brain works.
The prefrontal cortex, often referred to as the executive center, is charged with learning new information. And when learning new information, this part of your brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t allow salespeople to turn on their technology during sales training.)
You don’t need a big research study to arrive at this conclusion. Just apply common sense and observe professional athletes. When they are on the field or the court practicing, you don’t see them texting or checking their emails. They are focused on executing the plays and drills. Top salespeople, like top athletes, know that focus is needed in order to execute the sales playbook.
CEO’s and sales managers sadly fall short on modeling focused behavior. During a meeting, they are often the first ones to pull out their smart phone to check messages. People watch what you do, not what you say, so the message being sent to the sales team is that it’s okay not to pay attention.
Here’s the irony. The CEO’s and sales managers are the very same people complaining that their sales team doesn’t know the company value proposition or responses to prospect objections. Perhaps, it’s because members of your team are following your example. They were busy responding to emails during a training or coaching session rather than paying attention to developing their skills.
When you meet successful people, you assume they’ve always operated at this level of success. Nice house, car and lifestyle. What you don’t see are the hours of work and dedication that went into becoming the best in their field.
Here’s the neuroscience behind practice. When you are born, you come into the world with approximately 100 billion neurons. Each one of these neurons has the ability to make 15,000 connections, called synapses. Continued connections become a neural pathway or something often referred to as hard wiring.
This process is similar to hiking through the woods. The more times the trail is hiked, the easier it becomes to navigate because the path is cleared of branches and weeds. When you practice, you are forming new ‘trails’ in your brain that can be easily accessed. These new networks get stored in an area of the brain called the basil ganglia.
Knowledge stored in the basil ganglia is recalled without a lot of thought or effort. For example, if a prospect asks a tough question, the ‘practiced’ rep delivers a response without stumbling or mumbling. They aren’t sitting in a meeting trying to think of what they should say or do.
Tony Dungy, former NFL coach, understood the power of focus, practice and good habits, which helped his team win a Super Bowl. He said, “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things but do them without thinking. They are too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they have learned.”
This emotional intelligence skill is defined by the ability to put in the work to get the reward. In our instant gratification society, salespeople are being taught to expect sales success without putting in the time or work.
For example, building referral partners is a great strategy that produces warm introductions to prospects. The result is shorter sales cycles and increased close ratios. Many salespeople don’t execute this strategy well because it takes time to build a relationship.
Successful salespeople practice the habit of giving in order to build relationships. They make deposits in their potential referral partner’s ‘emotional bank account’ in order to create trust. The deposit might be giving a referral, inviting your partner to events, and taking time to educate them on how and why you do business. They put aside their need for instant gratification and do the work in order to earn the reward.
Harness the power of your brain. Focus, practice and develop your delayed gratification skills. Three simple habits that will help you achieve extraordinary sales results.