The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Salespeople

Read this if you want to sell more.

Notwithstanding the very (un)original title (with apologies to Stephen Covey’s classic must-read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), this post summarizes my observations of habits that highly effective salespeople have developed to elevate their sales performance to an entirely different level.

As a marketing guy for a B2B services company with long sales cycles, I have often been struck by why some salespeople are more successful than others. What makes some tick and others wither away? Is there a secret sauce, a magic potion or an unknown secret that can help one sell more? I got to hang out with some super successful sales pros at the Sandler Client Summit in Orlando and distilled sales success down to the following habits that will help you sell more:

1. Successful sales people have clearly defined what “Success” means to them.

For some, success means becoming a CEO in “X” number of years, for others it means being able to travel to exotic locations around the world, and for some others, it means retiring debt-free by a certain age. Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training, talked about the concept of creating a “Dream Board” — essentially creating a real board that has pictures of all the things you want from life — visualizing your dream as a starting point for defining the next step, which is goal setting.

Let’s assume for a minute that we define success as the ability to get to the summit of a mountain. Most successful salespeople would see themselves as climbers, continuously pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, as opposed to campers who find a comfortable spot to pitch their tents and stay put, or worse quitters, who give up on the first inkling of a hard climb.

What does success mean to you? Are you a climber, a camper or a quitter?

2. No Goal. No Go!

We’ve all heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time Bound). Do you have SMART goals? If you do, throw them out of the window. The fallacy of SMART goals is that they limit your audacity to dream big. And successful sales people dream big!

However, if only creating a dream board was enough to realize dreams, you would find me selling dream boards instead of writing this post! What turns dreamers into achievers is the concept of self-leadership — a critical self-awareness of what one is truly good at and where one is likely to screw up. Effective salespeople use feedback and tools such as the Extended DISC & Devine Assessments to gain better self-awareness.

As Bill Morrison, Sandler Sales Trainer from Switzerland puts it “Your strategic life objectives should be determined by your tactical strengths”. Follow your instinct, understand what you do really well and where you are likely to screw up. Then chart a path to success. Instead of focusing on SMART goals, be critically self-aware and concentrate on the strategic direction you want your life to take.

“Everybody has their own Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.” — Seth Godin. What’s yours?

3. Successful sales guys are really accountants pretending to be salespeople!

Not quite (!), but successful salespeople are BIG on accountability and discipline and hold themselves accountable for achieving the goal in a variety of ways including:

  • Clearly defining metrics for the actions they will take to achieve success. An example could be: “To achieve my goal, I am going to make 40 cold calls a day, get eight face-to-face meetings and close four deals every month”.
  • Openly sharing their goals
  • “checking in” with trusted accountability partners or groups to ensure they are taking the actions necessary to achieving their goals.
  • Journaling. John Rosso recommends using Grid Diary which is a pretty cool app for ensuring accountability.

4. The concept of a “born salesperson” is a myth.

Successful salespeople are consistent in their success because they are committed to a process and life-long learning. They practice their skill, just like any sportsperson would. They refine their skills to the point that it becomes predictable, almost boring!

They believe that behavior impacts attitude, not the other way around. They are OK with failure, in fact, they embrace failure as long as they learn something from it.

5. Effective salespeople deal with “Head-Trash” better than others.

Think of head trash as this guy/gal sitting on your shoulder feeding you negativity in your ear. These are the voices that undermine and tell you things like “you can’t ask them about their budget so early”, or “I can’t sit at the head of the table at the prospect’s office” or “she’s out of my league.” These are primarily negative thoughts, feelings or emotions that we are conditioned to believe. Successful salespeople quite simply have learned to deal with head trash better.

“Our beliefs hold us hostage” — Bill Bartlett.

Successful salespeople truly believe in “Equal business stature” and will take actions to ensure they are seen that way by prospects. They do not look at themselves as just another “vendor” and believe they bring value and are solving problems that help their prospects. Hamish Knox puts it succinctly.

“Your three biggest competitors are:
1. Yourself
2. The status quo
3. The last salesperson your prospect spoke to/met.”

6. Successful Salespeople are gutsy, five seconds at a time!

What does it mean to be gutsy in sales? It means doing things that you normally wouldn’t do and staying true to a sales process to maintain control. The good news is that you only have to be gutsy five seconds at a time.

Here’s an example: A salesperson has an up-front (verbal) contract with a prospect that both the prospect and the salesperson would take notes during the meeting and compare notes at the end of that meeting to avoid ambiguity. (Why? Statistics have shown that if prospects are taking notes, they are more likely to buy from you!).

Being gutsy would mean that the salesperson would gently encourage the prospect to take notes, if he/she is not taking the notes, by reminding them of the up-front contract. How many salespeople could pull that off in a nurturing manner? A small step in the sales process, but a giant leap in taking control! Taking control of such key moments in a selling cycle differentiate successful salespeople from the also-rans.

Jeff Nay, Sandler Trainer, Northern Virginia sums it up: “There are these sphincter-tightening moments when you have to straighten your spine, look your prospect in the eye and ask them the tough questions. Selling is really about getting to the truth.”

7. They have fun doing it!

Selling is like a roller-coaster ride — with the highs that come from closing a sale, there are also the lows of doubt, lack of self-belief and often, utter failure. Successful salespeople embrace change, consciously walk away from comfort and still have fun doing it.

In the words of Mike Wazowski (from Monsters, Inc. and Sully’s accountability partner — the best sales team of all time!): “Remember; laughter is ten times more powerful than screams.” Ride scared!

Do you have an “highly effective salesperson” habit that works for you? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

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