15 Bad Sales Habits & How to Break Them in 2018

February 16, 2018 Dan Tyre

How to Break Bad Habits

To break bad habits, begin by defining the behavior you want to change and identifying what triggers that behavior. Then, create a concrete plan for changing the behavior, and ask someone to hold you accountable. Finally, reward yourself when successful.

After a long day of sales calls, juggling what feels like a million prospects, and filling out endless CRM fields -- it’s easy for salespeople to slip into bad work habits. Some of our worst behaviors don't even seem that bad on the surface. And by flying under the radar, they can wreak havoc on our performance and become a habit before we even realize it.

My challenge to you? Fight like hell against those sneaky habits, and keep them from eating away at your hard work. Here are 14 examples of bad habits to avoid, along along with good work habits to adopt in their place.

What Is a Work Habit?

Work habits are regular patterns of behavior you exhibit in your job or place of employment. Consistently arriving to the office late, making a to-do list at the beginning of every week, and using a standing desk are all examples of work habits.

15 Bad Work Habits Salespeople Should Avoid

Bad Habits at Work

  1. Beating Yourself Up
  2. Acting Like a Know-it-All
  3. Hoarding Good Ideas
  4. Avoiding Prospecting
  5. Presenting Too Quickly
  6. Skimping on Research
  7. Selling to Everyone
  8. Lacking Purpose
  9. Whining and Complaining
  10. Watching "Friends" (Again)
  11. Not Walking the Walk
  12. Sitting All Day
  13. Writing Too Many Emails
  14. Not Preparing Enough
  15. Giving Up Too Soon

1. Beating yourself up

In sales, we’re faced with rejection every day. If you’re in the habit of seeing every “no” as a failure -- you’re going to burn out fast. Instead, redefine what it means to fail. Keep a Google Document full of your failures, and include the lesson you learned from each one.

When you’re having a rough day, look through your doc., and take pride in the mistakes you’ve made and how you’ve moved past them. You might be surprised at the positive effect your failures have had on your career. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

2. Acting like a know-it-all

Many green salespeople think they need to have all the answers. This is a terrible habit to get into. You’ll alienate your coworkers, and you might even give misinformation to your customers.

When you don't know an answer, own up to it and say, “That’s a great question. I don’t have an answer for you at the moment, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can." Asking your coworkers for help and advice is a great way to build rapport, and you’ll learn ten-times faster than you would on your own.

Don’t know where to start? Make it a goal to ask a different coworker one question every day.

3. Hoarding good ideas

The flip side to acting like you don’t need help from others is refusing to offer assistance when your coworkers need advice. Hoarding good sales solutions is selfish -- and makes you look a little paranoid.

Many salespeople think they need to make a splash all by themselves. But 2018 is all about team selling. Draw from marketers, executives, and contacts to make difficult sales and share your knowledge with them as well.

4. Avoiding prospecting

When reps have a deal nearing completion, their vision often narrows and they lose track of everything else going on. While this behavior is easy to adopt, putting off prospecting until the business closes will set you up for a bust right after your boom. You never want to sign the contract, head back to your pipeline, and discover it’s totally empty.

Block off time for prospecting every week. I’ve been selling for 30 years, and I still set aside several hours each week for prospecting. It keeps my sales skills fresh, helps my teammates, and ensures I don’t fall behind on the latest developments in our product and its audience.

5. Presenting too quickly

An inbound lead just came in. The prospect downloaded a bottom of the funnel case study. They're clearly interested in your product. So, why even bother with discovery questions? Hit them with a demo immediately, right?

Hang on. Sales pro Anthony Iannarino notes, "Opportunities are won and lost much earlier in the process. Skipping past stages ensures a loss."

If you don't conduct adequate discovery, you might misunderstand the buyer's needs and fail to tailor your offering accordingly. If you don't bother to gain consensus from all relevant stakeholders, a business leader who doesn't see the value in your product or service might shut down the deal in its final stages.

6. Skimping on research

It’s no secret salespeople love email templates and scripts. We couldn’t do our jobs without them. But when we lean on these tools too heavily, we miss out on giving our prospect a customized experience more relevant to their needs.

I often use Yelp to find out what the hottest restaurant is in a prospect’s city. Then I start my call with, “Have you been to XYZ restaurant yet? I hear the crab cakes are incredible!” My call is immediately more interesting than 99% of the other sales calls they’ll get that week. Why? Because I put in the extra time and customized my approach.

7. Selling to everyone

Don’t be afraid to tell a prospect you’re not the right fit for them. If your company's product is built for enterprise businesses and you're prospecting to a local mom-and-pop shop, you're wasting your time and theirs. Not only can they not afford your offering -- they simply don't need it.

It's tempting to latch onto any lead that comes your way. But the time you spend on bad opportunities takes away from your capacity to pursue good opportunities. Only work leads that closely match your company’s ideal prospect profile, and be willing to walk away from the rest.

To do this, stay tuned in to your most updated buyer personas, industry changes, and sales best practices. Know your niche better than anyone, and only sell to that niche.

8. Lacking purpose

Be direct and purposeful in how you structure and spend your days. I see too many salespeople let their days dictate what they do. It should be the other way around. Set goals for each day, week, month, and year you embark on. And be steadfast in meeting those goals.

Remember, your quota is not a goal. It’s someone else’s goal you’ve been hired to achieve. Set goals that contribute to your professional growth, and find people who will help you develop the skills you need to meet those goals.

For example, let’s say your goal this quarter is to become a better public speaker. Start by identifying the best presenter in your organization, and ask them to meet with you once a month to coach you on speaking. Then, hold yourself accountable to reading one book every two weeks on public speaking.

At the end of the quarter, find an event -- internally or externally -- and give a speech. This will give you an event to work toward, and a way to show off your hard work.

9. Whining and complaining

I hear so many salespeople complain about their lead quality. Stop it. Instead, take responsibility for meeting your quota and develop better relationships with your prospects.

Have you faced the same objection in your last three deals?Find out if any of your coworkers have come up against this objection, and ask them to brainstorm solutions.

Being a downer doesn’t help your career -- or anyone around you. When things feel bleak and every pitch is a failure, it’s tempting to wallow in your sorrows. Before you know it, negativity is a habit.

Approach your day and its challenges with positivity, and learn something from the positive sales pros around you.

10. Watching “Friends” (Again)

Step away from Netflix and rejuvenate your thinking. No one wants to engage with old thoughts. Use your nights, weekends, and commutes to expand your thinking with sales books, podcasts, and articles -- and bring fresh ideas to your next sales meeting.

It’s also important to network with other sales professionals in your city. Check LinkedIn or Meetup to find professional groups you can connect with. Can’t find a group in your area? Be the person who starts one. It’ll be great for your resume and your networking.

11. Not walking the walk

Talking about the steps you’re going to take to close a big deal makes you sound like you’ve got it all together. You might even have convinced yourself you’re a hotshot closer. But the habit of talking and not doing is one you need to break.

Sometimes, talking too much can make you overthink. In this case, you’re wasting time and your nerves will likely end up getting the better of you. Instead, roll up your sleeves and jump into your next call -- no pre-talk necessary.

12. Sitting all day

Anytime you’re taking a call, stand up. I swear by this habit. When you’re sitting down, generally your posture is bad, which affects your demeanor, which can affect your sales call.

Instead, take every call standing up. You’ll feel more energized and confident -- plus, it’s just healthier for you.

13. Writing too many emails …

… and not enough blogs. Many of the questions you get from prospects could be answered with a blog post. Have you gotten five separate questions about whether your company’s warehouse produces widgets with X capabilities? Write a blog post explaining the answer and link to it the next time a customer asks the same question.

Developing a great relationship with your blog or marketing team will help you out big-time. Find an editor (I’ve had several during my tenure writing for HubSpot Sales), and build a great working relationship. Seeing your name published on the company blog will be good for your deals and for your career.

14. Not preparing

I recommend every salesperson prepare for their week on Sunday night. It gives you an immediate plan of attack when you walk onto the sales floor Monday morning.

Do the same thing for demos. If the buyer protests the price, you should have rehearsed an answer. If they don't like X feature, you should have an alternative idea to present.

You should never lose a deal because you didn’t do enough preparation. Play devil's advocate, think of the areas a prospect could poke holes in your argument, and reinforce these weak areas with compelling rebuttals before you show up to the prospect's office.

15. Giving up too soon

There was no response to your initial outreach. Okay, no problem. You send a second message. And then a third. You call and leave a voicemail. You send a LinkedIn message.

Prospect: [Radio silence]

If you haven't received a response after reaching out two, three, or four times, the natural inclination is to throw in the towel. But persistence is the ultimate virtue in sales. Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, recommends salespeople make at least six to eight outreach attempts before giving up on a lead.

Are you guilty of adopting a few of these bad sales habits? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there from time to time. What’s important is what you do now.

Don’t waste too much time making plans, charting your course, and telling others how you’re going to improve. Improve. And then tell people how you did it.

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