Your sales career is good, but are you as successful as you hoped to be?
Most sales professionals say they’d like to accomplish more. What’s holding them back?
Many don’t even recognize the bad habits that get in the way of winning more sales, advancing their careers and saying, “I’m more successful than I could’ve ever imagined!”
Avoid – or at least temper – the bad habits, and you can get ahead.
Here are 12 habits you want to kick or control.
Note: The first and biggest hurdle to kicking bad habits is recognizing you have them and committing to the ever-important changes.
Impulsiveness is one the most damaging behaviors for anyone, according to professional behavior analyst Kerry Goyette, author of The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence.
It’s usually exhibited through unpredictable emotional responses. It might be quick anger, elevated frustration, over-zealousness for an unworthy pursuit or jumping from one shiny, new idea to another without seeing any one through.
In many cases, it causes you to hurt relationships, jeopardize support from colleagues, lose sales and spoil your sales career because people can’t trust you.
Fix it: Give yourself more time to plan for almost everything involved in your professional and selling processes. Reflect on what you know about each situation, past successes and failures and what you potentially missed because of haste. These questions will help:
- What can go wrong?
- How will others who matter perceive my approach to this (sale, project, idea, etc.)?
- What is one thing that my efforts will impact that I haven’t considered yet?
- What kind of experience do I want to create for stakeholders (including your boss, colleagues, customers, prospects)?
Salespeople who shift blame are not effective problem-solvers and innovators. Why? Instead of taking responsibility for mistakes or tough situations and jumping to fix them, they make excuses and avoid culpability.
Salespeople who are inclined to shift blame exaggerate the negative, have a victim mentality and pass the buck. Those qualities don’t win friends, sales or great careers.
Fix it: It’s a bit of a mind game to overcome shifting blame. Start by eliminating these kind of thoughts:
- “I did everything I could so if it doesn’t work out it’s not my fault.”
- “I’m just one salesperson. I can’t control what happens now.”
- “Marketing/lead gen/my boss/the company have something against me.”
Replace those with a closer look at what you do have control over in the sales process and your career – and do more in those areas, Goyette suggests.
Many salespeople consider perfectionism a positive attribute to their career. But it can be detrimental because the pursuit of perfection prevents salespeople from hitting deadlines and demand.
Fix it: Confirm your standards with your boss or trusted colleague. Get their feedback on your goals and expectations. You might ask them to look at what you’ve accomplished at set points throughout bigger sales or projects to confirm that it’s good enough. Ask them where you can or should relax standards.
Salespeople who are guilty of conversational narcissism shift the focus of conversations from someone else to themselves. It can be a subtle, polite or aggressive move that lessens other people and their experiences or dismisses their need.
Some examples of where conversational narcissists turn the table: “Oh, that’s nothing. One time I …” “That’s not a big deal compared to when I …” “You think that’s bad/good. Not compared to when I …”
While it’s good to build rapport through commonalities, it’s a bad habit to overtake or one-up conversations with prospects, customers and colleagues. No salesperson wants to minimize others’ needs, concerns or thoughts.
Fix it: Practice validating what others say. Instead of sharing your story or feelings (at least initially), say something such as, “I see where you’re coming from,” “That must’ve been frustrating/exciting/scary/fulfilling” or “How interesting. Can you you tell me more about …?”
Salespeople who believe they need to be in control of everything involved in their sales often take on unnecessary responsibilities and alienate colleagues who can and should work as a team. Some salespeople may also try to take too much control in customer relationships, directing them, rather than partnering with them. These behaviors make salespeople less effective at the work elements – selling and partnering with customers – that are most essential to a successful career.
Fix it: Work at loosening control over every element of the sales process. Build stronger relationships with colleagues who are supposed to support you rather than dismiss or direct them. The trust you build will make it easier to share control.
Many people (not just salespeople, and especially women) over-apologize, giving others the impression they doubt their own thoughts and ideas or feel inferior to others.
Fix it: Replace “I’m sorry” with “Thank you” or “Excuse me.” Examples:
- “Thanks for your patience” instead of “Sorry I’m late.”
- “Thanks for you help” instead of “I’m sorry to ask for a favor.”
- “Excuse me” instead of “I’m sorry to ask/bump into you/get in your way, etc.”
Sales is a friendly business, so it sometimes becomes easy to let down your guard on manners. Salespeople want to create relationships like friendships with customers, and when things get comfortable, they might forget to stay professional all the time.
Fix it: Remember and practice the manners mothers teach children. Some: Say, “Please” and “Thank you.” Hold the door for others. Chew with your mouth closed. Give up your seat to someone who needs it more. Clean up after yourself. Respect people’s space and privacy.
Gossiping and trash-talking
Good manners also call for avoiding gossip and trash-talk. Yet, those are so easy to come by and participate in when you work in sales. You might be inclined to trash talk your competition. Or you might hear and share gossip about colleagues because their foils are your victory.
But gossip and trash-talk usually make the person doing it look worse than the victim.
Fix it: Practice to be the antithesis of a gossiper and trash-talker. Change the topic. Speak kind words about someone who is the subject of gossip or your competition.
Inattentiveness can be exhibited in many forms before it derails a sales career. Salespeople might engage with something on their mobile devices while personally interacting with customers or colleagues. They might wait too long or never respond to calls, texts or emails. Or they might zone out in meetings. They might stare at devices rather than chat with groups in social situations.
Fix it: Pay attention to who’s with you and what’s going on around you. If you must use a device when interacting with others, ask them to excuse you to do so first. Respond to messages within an hour – at least, give a reason you can’t do something immediately and when you will take care of it.
Being late for meetings. Responding late to requests or invitations. Submitting work after deadlines. They’re all forms of tardiness, and they’re usually accompanied by excuses such as, “I’ve been busy” or “I have a lot on my plate.”
But to customers and colleagues the behavior and excuses feel like they aren’t a priority or you don’t care enough about them. They won’t consider you reliable for long – and will likely stop relying on you for anything.
Fix it: Create new, timely habits. Set recurring alarms and earlier deadlines. Avoid filling your calendar so you have extra time to respond to emergencies and stay on target.
Salespeople who think they do their best work by putting it off until the last minute – when they’re under pressure – often don’t recognize the impact they have on colleagues. Anyone who supports procrastinators gets frustrated. Some prospects reward their business to the first salesperson to answer questions, offer viable solutions or submit a proposal. Punctuality matters in closing deals and getting ahead in your career.
Fix it: You don’t have to shoot for getting everything done early. But you want to aim for being a day or hours ahead of deadlines so you have time to troubleshoot.
Stretching the truth
Very few people are all-out liars, and those who are, lose their credibility and jobs because of legal and moral lapses.
But more professionals have a habit of stretching the truth – and while it’s not illegal, it can damage sales careers. Truth-stretching includes behaviors such as taking more credit than you deserve, focusing on positives without acknowledging negatives, over-inflating your credentials or dismissing legitimate issues.
Fix it: Tell the truth. There’s no way around it. Soften hard truths with softer realities, but don’t hide anything.