Habits can be your Best Friend or your Worst Enemy

Transforming into a Trusted Advisor is a challenge for everyone in sales. If you find it more difficult than expected, don’t worry, you are not alone. Nowadays there is much more required to be a salesperson who can be trusted and can advise customers on what changes they have to make, to achieve better results for their business.

In the past, selling was relatively easier, because at nearly every customer meeting you could show your knowledge about what you sell and customers were actually listening with great interest; you had something they did not know and potentially wanted to buy. Now, this approach does not work any longer, and, if you have been following my blogs, you know it.  

So, ok… the new way of selling may not go as smooth as you like. To me, that is not a big surprise. Although you have given it your best to shot to apply new selling skills, something gets in the way and you are back to your old habits. When it comes to habits, they can be your best friends or your worst enemy.

Have you ever tried brushing your teeth with your left hand (if you are right handed)? Try it…what do you experience? It feels weird, you cannot reach all your teeth that well, and it seems less effective. But what if someone told you it is more effective? In fact, from now on brushing your teeth with your right hand will result in yellow teeth with more decay. It is time to change to your left hand. Would you make that change, despite the strange, uncomfortable feeling?

This is what you are experiencing right now. You know you have the knowledge and tools to sell differently. You are convinced it will make you more successful. But doing it, is another story. You know you should ask more challenging questions to open up more business type conversations. You know your questions should challenge the customer, discovering something about themselves. But then instead, you find yourself asking for shipping profiles or other quantities so you can put a proposal on the table. You had a couple of great calls, but soon you are back to matching your competition’s low prices and complaining that no one cares about quality and service.

Habits are funny things. According to Weldon Long, in his book The Power of Consistency, this is the conundrum of human nature. Odds are that you’ve made several attempts, you have given it a good try—but then, the new way of selling may not land as well as you had hoped. And although you made some temporary improvements, it’s not long before you find yourself falling back into your old routine. You can’t seem to make the changes stick or consistently do the things you already know you should be doing.

Long, an expert in making things stick, recommends you identify just one or two things that ensure success and do those things—consistently. “It’s about kicking the challenge’s ass . . . not waiting for things to magically get better”. The challenge is not the lack of information; it’s a problem with lack of action. You just aren’t doing the things you know you should be doing, on a consistent basis.

For example, if you fail to understand where your customer contact is in their buying process, then that is the one thing you need to focus on, before you can move on to sharing insights, storytelling and applying great business acumen. Then, you already know that decisions are not made by one stakeholder but by several. So, repeat this exercise, talk to more stakeholders and understand if they prefer to stick to their status quo or are willing to explore change. Focus on one thing and make it work for you – consistently.

Or, if you realize that you could have been better prepared at your recent meetings, focus on how to get ready using your sales enablement tool. Challenge yourself on what you know about the opportunity and what you still need to find out- consistently, for every opportunity.

Managers, support your front line salesforce on this. Coach on one thing before moving on to the next. Ensure new sales habits become your sales team’s best friend.

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