There are a lot of articles, research and books that describe the traits and skills of high-performance salespeople. The problem is they don’t help demonstrate how you can develop and enhance those traits. If top athletes are made through their daily habits, then what are the daily habits that create high-performance sales professionals?
My research and interviews with top performers have found that there are 8 common, daily habits.
1) Setting Daily Goals
It is no surprise that to be successful in sales you must be goal-orientated. But, it’s the daily goals that are vital to success. As Robert Collier said, ‘Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated daily’.
Top salespeople set themselves daily goals that are directly aligned to their targets. When I dug deeper, I found that these goals were measurable and were also massive actions. By ‘massive’ I don’t mean the magnitude of the specific action, but the magnitude of the impact this action will provide. For example, average-performers tend to set themselves a goal of making 50–100 cold calls per day. However, high-performers set themselves clear goals that will measurably take them closer to their target. For example, ‘I have to schedule 3 sales meetings today to ensure that I am pacing to my target’. This goal is a clear action towards their target. It is also nonrestrictive and allows for creativity to get the job done. The goal is not to make a certain number of calls, the goal is to close deals. This can only be accomplished by having sales meetings and they don’t necessarily come from just doing hundreds of cold calls.
Note: high-performers are not delusional and just focus on the ‘softer’ methods for scheduling meetings to avoid the perceptively harsh nature of cold calling. Something I will discuss in a future blog/article.
2) Cold, Hard Facts
High-performers are ruthless when it comes to the maths around their actions. What I mean by this is they calculate how many interactions, or touchpoints, they need to make in their sales process to achieve their target. Their daily goals are a direct link to what they must do to achieve their goal, whether they are targeted monthly, quarterly or yearly. For example:
Target = £500,000
Average sales value = £20,000
Average conversion rate = 10%
Using the data above, high-performers know that they need to schedule 250 Initial Sales Engagements (ISEs) in order to achieve their target (I discuss below that they actually plan above their target, but we will stick with achieving 100% for this example).
Let’s assume you have 250 working days in a year, that means that you need to schedule a minimum of 5 ISEs every week.
High-performers plan their days according to such numbers. They are ruthless about how they are pacing towards this activity metric and plan their day accordingly.
One final point, every high performer we interviewed stated that they don’t just think about their daily goals, they write them down. The act of writing down their daily goals made it a reality and something they could clearly review at the end of the day.
3) Know Your Why
Almost every high-performer I interviewed were crystal clear on their ‘why’: why they want to achieve their target, why is it important to them and what will that achievement mean to them?
Some were primarily driven by money. It wasn’t about the money itself, but more about what they would do with that money: buy a new home, a new car, an expensive holiday, private school for their children etc.
Some were driven by career aspirations and progression. They were clear about what career advancement their high performance would present.
Some were primarily driven by ego and the chance to attend their company’s 5-star, all-expenses-paid holiday for the top performers.
High-performers also created ways to continuously remind themselves of their ‘why’. Some did this by having images printed on their desks, saved on their pc wallpaper or even written down in their diaries/journals. They made sure to place these ‘reminders’ in places where they would naturally see them frequently every day.
In point 2 above, I explained how high-performers would calculate the math required to achieve their target. There is one addition to this: high-performers always calculated achieving above their target.
Let’s use the example of farmers planning their production volume. If they wanted to grow 30 tonnes worth of produce, it would be foolish to buy the exact quantities of seed, fertiliser, machinery, land etc that will produce exactly 30 tonnes. Experienced farmers account for external factors that could affect their yields, such as soil erosion, weather/drought/flooding, and pests. Farmers will use extra resources to account for any unforeseen circumstances.
High-performers always shoot for over-achievement and plan their critical actions accordingly. That way they have a buffer for any unforeseen circumstances beyond their control. It also means that, more often than not, they have a mindset of overachievement that they bring to their daily work; resulting in overachievement!
5) Mindset Priming
This is an interesting one and something we found to be a unique feature of high-performers. Confidence and a positive mindset are powerful in any sales process. In a recording of one of his lectures, Napoleon Hill states that a sale is not made until the seller has sold himself first. Grant Cardone also talks about how he has complete belief that in every sales call, and every sales meeting, that the buyer will find value in his offer and will buy. In his book To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink talks about ‘buoyancy’ and how high-performers ensure that their mindset is optimal on a daily basis.
Some do this through meditation. Others, by reciting affirmations to themselves, expressing confidence in their skills and traits. One salesperson we interviewed uses the power of creative visualisation. She imagines the meeting before it happens. She goes through every detail to make this as real in her mind as possible: she imagines the introduction, the questions she will ask, the responses from the buyer, she even imagines the feel of the chair she will sit. Albert Einstein said, ‘Creative visualisation is a mental technique that uses the imagination to make our goals and dreams come to life’.
Almost all the high-performers interviewed described how the act of reaffirming their confidence, by using their own methods, has drastically improved their results and is a big part of their daily routine.
6) Excellence Mastery
As the world moves at a break-neck speed, so too do high-performers. To be a trusted expert, salespeople must be knowledgeable about their industry, their products, their competitors, and especially the buyer’s industry. Demand Gen Report releases a yearly report into B2B buying practices. In their 2018 report, they found that buyers consistently stated how they value sellers who have experience and understanding of their industry.
The high-performers we interviewed understood the importance of this and were exceptionally knowledgeable about the industries they sell to. They also know that the business world moves incredibly fast and there are daily developments that have an impact on their business. So they make it a daily habit to continuously learn the skills and information they need to maintain their edge and outshine any competition; especially other salespeople.
Interestingly, almost all these high-performers put more stock in knowing their buyer’s industry, than staying informed about their own products and industry. This is not to say that they ignored learning about their products and services, it’s just that they prioritised the buyer’s industry as they know that buyers are first and foremost more interested in themselves and what the seller’s product can do for them.
This is not what you think. When I say self-discipline, I mean that high-performers are very strict about how they use their time. Every day, they will assess their daily plan and will determine whether they will have enough time dedicated to the ‘power tasks’ that are vital to achieving their objectives. Once they have done this, they will then block out those times in their calendar and stick to it. For example, if they know that they need to schedule 2 meetings per day, and on average it takes 4 hours of their time to accomplish this, they will ensure make sure to dedicate 4 hours of that day towards outreach activities to get those 2 meetings in the diary. In his book, Sales Simplified, Mike Weinberg talks about the importance of blocking out time for outbound activities.
High-performers make it a habit to always stick to their goals and find a way to deliver on their self-promises. None of the high-performers I interviewed ever expressed reasons or excuses for an inability to deliver. They take ownership of their successes and failures. They know that their outcomes are down to how they conduct themselves and, whatever happens, they can always find a way to conduct the actions that are vital to achieving their goals.
8) Action reflection
This is an interesting one and something that I have been doing for a number of years. It is a very valuable exercise.
After every call, every meeting, and every sales engagement, high-performers reflect on how that engagement went. Now, this may not sound ground-breaking if you tend to discuss them with your manager and colleagues. However, high-performers go a step further. They reflect on every single engagement, even emails. They realise that each engagement is a step towards a major action that leads to a sale. Therefore, they know that making small 2% changes at each level will result in big changes and big results.
The method I use has proven to be very effective for me, and my clients, over my decade-plus experience. After every engagement I ask myself 4 questions:
1. What were all the good things that I did?
2. What were the things that I didn’t do, should have done or could have done more?
3. What one thing will I take away and apply for future engagements?
4. What did I learn about myself (this one must be a positive affirmation)?
Doing this ensures that you are creating a habit of continuous improvement. It also ensures that you are quickly course-correcting and avoid unnecessarily committing the same mistakes on future engagements.