When you first start out in sales, closing just one deal can seem like reaching the top of Everest. Then you realize that the mountain needs to be climbed multiple times a day, if possible.
Some people seem to conquer this task with ease, like they were born with sales genes.
In reality, most sales superstars are simply following a blueprint for success. They form habits that put them at a huge advantage and then remain consistent enough to enjoy the results.
Want to know what they are doing right? Keep reading to learn about the key habits that can transform your sales fortunes.
What Are the Ingredients of a Great Salesperson?
Before we dive into the practical steps of making sales, it’s worth thinking about the raw ingredients you will need.
Along with good habits, the most successful salespeople share certain traits. Notice we said traits not talents. These are skills you can learn and improve over time.
Here are some of the most important ones to focus on:
- Friendliness – It’s pretty rare to find a successful sales professional who comes across as grumpy. Learning how to project a friendly, approachable demeanor (even on a bad day) is really important.
- Enthusiasm – If you can’t make yourself excited about an offer, why would potential customers be interested? The best salespeople are passionate about what they do.
- Empathy – Every client is a human being, and they will expect to be treated like one. Empathizing with your client can help you build a connection, and help you understand problems that your offer might solve.
- Attention to Detail – This might sound like one of the buzzwords you see on a job description, but paying attention to the details is vital in sales. It can unlock a deal later down the line.
- Analytical – Just as great athletes analyze their own performance in order to improve, so must sales professionals. Those who record and examine data will soon see what works and what doesn’t.
- Adaptable – There is no point in running analyses and identifying areas for improvement if you’re unwilling to change. Top salespeople are always able to adapt.
Cultivating these traits can help you become a better salesperson, even if you already have good figures.
7 Key Habits You Should Start Copying
Of course, traits can take some time to grow. In the meantime, you can instantly improve your sales game by copying the working practices of industry giants.
Here are some common habits we have seen in sales superstars:
1) Making a Plan for Every Call or Meeting
When you are meeting several clients every day, it’s tempting to skip the prep and just wing it. But as the saying goes, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
Most successful salespeople agree that it’s essential to have a game plan in place for every call and meeting. This doesn’t need to be a play-by-play strategy, just a rough roadmap for the conversation.
Neil Rackham is a sales consultant and the author of best-selling sales bible, SPIN Selling. Before every call and meeting, he pulls out a pen and pad.
“I’ll write down three or four good questions I want to ask, make a little plan, and then tear it up so that I’m not pulling it out in front of my prospect,” he says, speaking to Close.
Takeaway: Making a call plan ensures you can’t forget any key points.
2) Doing Background Research Every Time
Along with making a call plan, most top salespeople do extensive research on every prospect. This includes visiting their social media profiles, checking out their company website, and even reading industry reports.
This might seem like overkill, particularly for a first call. But background information is the lifeblood of any good salesperson.
You can reference a recent product launch to get the conversation flowing; take note of funding when constructing your offer; and win the trust of prospects by mentioning professional connections.
As the owner of several marketing agencies, Sujan Patel is well aware of the power of research. “Knowing the person and company you’re talking to inside and out not only lets you tailor your conversations to their needs and anticipate common sales objections, but it also shows your prospect that you really know what you’re talking about,” he says.
Datanyze can help you with gathering such information, with a Chrome extension that pulls up detail from any LinkedIn profile or business website. It can even provide accurate contact details with a click.
Takeaway: Background research is useful for starting conversations, building trust, and personalizing your pitch.
3) Listening as Much as You Talk
The best salespeople don’t push clients into a purchase. Instead, they use questions and other cues to help the prospect to realize why they need the offer.
In order to use this technique effectively, you have to listen. Data from Chorus show that reps are talking for around 40%–45% of the time in successful calls. That means your prospect should get more than an equal share of the conversation.
“Technology is going to start handling the majority of our tasks,” says Ben Sardella, the co-founder of OutboundWorks and former co-founder of Datanyze. “What’s really going to be meaningful is being empathetic. How able and willing are you to actually listen to your prospect’s pain points?”
Takeaway: Top-performing salespeople listen carefully to the pain points, so they can build a connection and provide genuine solutions.
4) Asking a Lot of Questions
Active listening is only possible if your prospect has something to say. Sometimes, they may need to be coaxed out of their shell.
To help their prospects overcome shyness, skillful salespeople have a habit of asking a lot of questions. In addition, these kinds of inquiries can reveal information that isn’t available through background research.
Michael Douglas, head of sales at ENFOS, likes to keep questions at the front of his mind before every meeting. “I’m talking to myself in the lobby; ‘What, Why, Who, How, When.’ I’m repeating these words to myself.”
If you’re wondering how to use these words in a sales conversation, here are some ideas:
- What are the primary problems facing your business?
- Why are they causing difficulties?
- Who in your business is affected by these problems?
- How are you currently working, and how would you like to work?
- When do you want it fixed?
You can add many more, but this list alone will give you plenty of content to talk about.
Takeaway: By asking lots of questions, top sellers are able to encourage conversation, and they better understand the needs of their prospects.
5) Making Detailed Notes
Imagine you had the opportunity to sit behind a two-way mirror and watch a top salesperson operate. You wouldn’t be able to hear what was said; you could only observe their actions.
Chances are, you would see the sales professional writing or typing a whole lot of notes.
It makes sense when you think about it. There is little point in listening to your client and asking questions if you don’t remember what was said. And given that top sales reps are contacted by hundreds of people a week, notes are a vital tool for revising the details of any prospect.
High-end sales trainer, Peter Collins, is a big advocate of note-taking. “Note-taking allows the salesperson to immediately go back over the conversation and look for clues that may have been initially missed,” he points out.
He also highlights a secondary benefit. “Note-taking reinforces the prospect’s desire to speak and also highlights to the prospect the salesperson’s role as an information gatherer.”
Takeaway: By taking notes, great salespeople are able to access key details about any prospect, even weeks after a conversation.
6) Being Persistent…in the Right Way
No-one likes being harassed. But the best salespeople know the fine line between persistence and pestering — and they stay just on the right side.
Persistence is actually a vital part of sales. Buyers and execs are busy people, who can quite legitimately miss three emails and five calls. If you give up before getting through, you could easily be throwing away a great lead. It’s better to be told “no” than to receive no answer at all.
That said, persistence only works if you are delivering the right offer to the right person, in the right way.
Alysa Hinshaw, a senior coach at The Center for Sales Strategy, remembers getting the balance wrong early in her career. “I had truly thought that persistence alone should get me in the door.”
Over time, she realized something important. “I began to see the power of not just being persistent, but being persistent with a purpose.” In other words, you shouldn’t persist just because you want a sale — the best sales staff only chase eligible prospects.
Takeaway: When you believe that your offer can solve a prospect’s needs, don’t give up prematurely.
7) Constant Learning
This habit is shared not only by elite sales professionals, but also by individuals at the highest level of every discipline.
By definition, you need to be more skillful and knowledgeable than most of your competition in order to be considered “one of the best.” That requires you to learn fast, and keep improving throughout your career.
When it comes to sales, there is so much free education available. On our very own site, we have an in-depth guide to cold calling, advice on selling SaaS, tips for hunting down new leads, and a whole library of market share reports.
Takeaway: To stay ahead of the competition, it is vital to keep improving your sales skills.
Best Practices for Salespeople
Whether you are just starting out or trying to reach the next level, adopting these habits is sure to have a positive effect on your numbers.