The role of the sales professional isn’t an easy one. They have to deal with long hours, a complex sales process, sales content overload, unique customers requests, demanding managers, and more, all while operating in the high-pressure business environment.
Last week we were reading a discussion on LinkedIn where sales professionals were sharing the daily habits that drive their success. They agreed that the top sales professionals often have an indefinable element that sets them apart from their peers, but they went on to break down the key skills and characteristics that they share.
We curated this advice because it’s important for sales professionals to be focused on continuously learning and improving their skills. So, here are five habits of highly effective sales professionals that you can adopt, whether you’re down in the trenches or managing the team!
1. They manage their time
Recent research found that salespeople need to be spending more than 39% of their time selling, but often other activities pull them away (HubSpot, 2016). This draws attention to one of the biggest differentiators between good sales professionals and the best sales professionals: time management.
“Time is always limited, and so the best reps are able to make the most of every hour in the day, and always have a plan to win. The top 1% prioritize the best leads first to improve the end results and maximize every minute of their time spent working each lead.” (Insight Squared, 2015).
The best sales professionals go into meetings with a game plan, and a contingency plan. They take the time to make sure that they’re prepared for every situation; they anticipate challenges or questions and prepare effective responses. They spend a lot of time focused on pre-call planning, which includes doing research on their prospects, gathering information about needs and preferences before customer meetings, and searching their CRM systems for useful data (HubSpot, 2016). When you dedicate the time to effective planning, it translates to a strong performance and great results.
Another important aspect of time management for sales professionals is keeping commitments. In an article by Inc. Magazine they highlighted this habit, explaining that: “Trust is a key component in any relationship, and it is especially important in sales. When top salespeople make promises, they keep their commitments, reinforcing to clients that they can be trusted.” (Inc., 2013).
2. They always ask questions and listen to the answers
The top percentile of sales professionals differentiate themselves from the rest by how they interact with customers.
“For any sales pro, the pressure to sell and close the deal is very strong; almost all-consuming. For this reason, they tend to view their customers as means to an end… In a way that is slightly counterintuitive, highly successfully sales pros tend to approach customers from a very different direction; instead of asking themselves, 'What can I sell this customer?' they are asking, 'How can I help this customer?'” (Baker Communications).
One of the biggest mistakes that a sales professional can make is assuming that they know more than they really do about a customer’s situation, this narrow approach leads to missed opportunities and unfulfilled needs.
They are able to ask the right questions at the right time, to draw out information, gain the trust of their prospects, and find out hidden details that will help them to effectively close a deal. Top sellers understand the value of challenging questions, and they know the correct sequence in which to ask their questions, always making sure to connect their value proposition back to the prospect’s unique pain points (Insight Squared, 2015). This creates a better customer experience which is a top priority for modern businesses (SuperOffice, 2016).
(Stats pulled from: SuperOffice, 2016)
Ultimately, asking the right questions and listening to the responses helps sales professionals tailor their communications and move beyond the ‘one size fits all’ mentality, to deliver effective messages that match a prospect’s unique needs.
3. They set goals and measure the results
The daily life of a sales professional is extremely busy. They have meetings, calls, prospecting, emails, follow ups, and more, which can often lead to chaos, a congested sales pipeline, and poor planning. When they operate day-by-day, following up on the leads that fall into their laps, and attempting to close deals at superhuman speed, they lose sight of their objectives.
“By contrast, highly successful sales professionals are outcome-driven. They define what they want to accomplish through a series of measurable goals, and they plan their customer strategies and activities to focus on achieving those outcomes. They use their pipeline as a guide and a resource, but they also refine and prioritize that pipeline in order to achieve the outcomes they are aiming for.” (Baker Communications).
Successful sales professionals measure everything! They quantify and evaluate every sales activity with every customer, identifying gaps for improvement and finding opportunities for future success. The most important thing to remember when measuring the results of sales activities is to be honest, because the results, whether good or bad, always have something to teach us.
When the top sellers determine that their activities are not generating the results that they want, they quickly and analytically revise, reload and start again. Refusing to waste valuable selling time on activities that don’t produce measurable results is one of the key differentiators between the best and the rest. Alternatively, when the numbers are good, they find out why and continue to leverage these tactics for better results.
4. They know how to use their sales content
Over the last few years the volume of sales content has been growing at an exponential rate, creating a massive, unstoppable avalanche of content (for a detailed explanation of this trend check out our infographic about effective content management). This avalanche is causing problems for sales professionals. They’re wasting hours every day searching for digital content.
If managers want their sales professionals to be the best, they must arm them with the right tools for the job. They need sales content that is easy to find, consistent in quality, and tightly aligned with their business goals. They use technologies such as sales enablement and content management to store and organize their content.
Using sales enablement technology helps sales to build comprehensive sales strategies and to execute their content goals. System admins frequently monitor their content management platforms deleting out-dated content, adjusting recommendations based on customer needs, tracking content performance, and more, ensuring that their sales teams are always prepared with the most compelling content for their intended audience. When content is easy to find and use, sales professionals can feel confident in their ability to address the needs of their customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Content technology can save sales professionals hours every week, and it can give them back valuable selling time by eliminating dull admin tasks. The best sales professionals know that they need an organized, mobile, and sophisticated content library, one that works both online and off, across all browsers and devices, that provides detailed content analytics, and has the functionality that they need to succeed. If you’re interested in learning more about content management, download a free copy of our white paper below.
5. They are continuously learning
The top sales professionals never miss an opportunity to learn. Now, this may sound obvious, but premium sales professionals are product knowledge experts. Customers only place their trust in sellers who can actively demonstrate that they know their products and services inside and out. In order to do this, top sales professionals spend the time to learn and stay up to date on all of their company’s products and services (SuperOffice, 2016).
They understand that customers don’t buy products - they buy solutions, which is why sales professionals have to do their research and information gathering on all potential prospects. They have to learn the current and future industry trends, the needs of the company, the role of the individual, etc.
“Even in the most commoditized industries, highly successful sales professionals understand that when you create options that are aligned with the customer’s needs, you can make your product a part of a larger solution which the customer will find more appealing. Never hesitate to explore ideas and options that are outside of the box.” (Baker Communications) Experienced sales professionals evaluate and adjust their sales strategies and execution for optimal results.
Great sales professionals are always reading the latest sales blogs, learning new skills, improving their pitches and presentations, or asking for coaching. They lack the ability to sit still; instead they constantly strive and push themselves to improve. This work ethic and commitment results in sharp selling skills and pays off in successful results!
Get out there and start working
There is no ‘right’ way to become an effective sales professional; these are simply 5 habits that we found to be most useful for modern sales professionals.
We’re sure that there are a million more effective sales habits out there, so if you have any that you’d like to share with us, tweet at us today @WhutInc.
And if you’re interested in learning more about what we do here at WHUT to help sales professionals ace their calls, prepare like champions, and close deals with confidence, then book a demo with one of our sales team heroes.