Habits of Sales Professionals

The best salespeople go well beyond creating satisfied customers to build loyal customers. They don’t merely hunt for transactions they look for ways to help their customers achieve their goals. They make a habit out of asking more questions than less successful salespeople. They know that without a complete understanding of their customer’s situation they may miss the opportunity to help. 

 

Time is one of a salesperson’s most valuable assets. But using it to maximum advantage is often a salesperson’s greatest challenge. Salespeople tend to be outgoing, talkative people for whom details are almost a form of torture. 

 

The most effective sales professionals make a detailed plan which includes a flexible work schedule that maximizes their selling time. The plan most often includes office time, planned at the beginning and end of the week, and at the beginning and end of the day. If you don’t have to be in the office then you should be Face-to-Face with a customer. 

 

Sometimes you must be in the office, but it is not the place to spend your prime time hours. Do “office stuff” as bookends to your selling day – either early or late. Make a habit of using your time more effectively and you’ll be making success a habit as well.

 

The top salespeople know that the little things make them stand out from the crowd. Writing personal notes to customers to thank them for their time, or to follow-up an appointment are good examples. They don’t need to be lengthy or complex, in fact they shouldn’t be. Just make them sincere and you will set yourself apart from the throngs of less professional salespeople.  

 

Along the same lines, leave a brief note on the back of your business card when you happen to miss your customer or they are unavailable. It’s so simple, but hardly anyone does it. And it means that your card has a better chance of being noticed among the many left behind by the throng.  It is a great habit to get into and it can make a huge difference in your results.


Sales is a people business, and creativity counts. When you develop the habit of allowing your personality to come through you automatically stand out from the crowd. If you’re truly a professional then that’s a good thing, a very good thing. 

A Word of Appreciation

One of the easiest ways to maintain healthy relationships, with anyone, is to show appreciation. When you make it a point to share with people how much you appreciate what they have done it separates you from most other people who don’t show enough appreciation.

 

I’d be willing to bet that someone in your life has done something for you that deserves a simple thank you or a bit of appreciation. It’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that you’re already aware of that person and fully intend to show your appreciation. But intending to show your appreciation and actually doing it are two very different things. 

 

Here are a few ideas for turning your intentions into actual actions. 

 

Call at least one person a day, everyday, to thank them for something. This might take a bit of thinking at first but pretty soon you’ll see the opportunities to say thank you are nearly limitless.  

 

Send out five thank-you notes a week. As powerful as a spoken thank you can be a written one is ten times more meaningful. Yes, an emailed thank you works but a hand written thank you means so much more. Poor handwriting is no excuse, print if you have to but handing out or mailing a written thank you can have tremendous impact on the recipient.

 

Don’t wait for someone to do something for you to show appreciation. Take the initiative and do something for someone every day and don’t let them discover it was you who did it. This is harder than it seems and I think it’s hard because it’s human nature to want “credit” for doing something good or nice. But do what you do for others without the expectation of appreciation or payback. When you expect something back, that is not appreciation — it’s a barter.

 

When you are appreciative, it makes other people feel like they want to do more for you, even though that was not your agenda. When we fail to show appreciation, it makes others feel like they want to do less for us. It makes them feel taken for granted. That’s never good.

 

Someone in your life could benefit from a word of appreciation this very day. Can you guess who it might be? Don’t guess, just start passing out appreciation as if it were free. The fact is, it is free but it is the most valuable free thing you’ll ever see. A thank you doesn’t cost anything yet it can mean the world to people who don’t hear those two powerful words often enough.


Don’t wait to show your appreciation. Do it now because a word of appreciation just might make someone’s day.

Are You Persistent Enough to Succeed?

Almost all successful people, actually let’s get rid of the “almost” and say “ALL” successful people have one trait in common…they didn’t quit. They may have stopped once or twice, they may have gone backwards a time or two and fallen down fairly often. But they starting moving again, made up lost ground and picked themselves up (often with help) and persevered

 

There are plenty of examples of famous people who overcame severe obstacles on their journey to ultimate success. Abraham Lincoln failed in business, lost numerous elections and his sweetheart, and had a nervous breakdown. But he never quit. He kept on trying and became, according to many, our greatest president. 

 

Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book was rejected by 23 publishers.   

 

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.  

 

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.  

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt was struck by polio but he never quit.   

 

Helen Keller, totally deaf and blind, graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, and went on to become a famous author and lecturer.

 

There are many more stories of well known people who overcame multiple hurdles to succeed. Even more impressive are the millions of stories about ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things through perseverance. What those millions of stories prove is that success can be achieved by anyone, literally anyone. That includes you! 

 

I love the story about the high school basketball coach who was attempting to motivate his players to persevere through a difficult season. Halfway through the season he stood before the team and said, “Did Michael Jordan ever quit?” The team responded, “No!” He yelled, “What about the Wright brothers? Did they ever give up?” “No!” hollered back the team. “Did Muhammad Ali ever quit?” Again the team yelled, “No!” “Did Elmer McAllister ever quit?” There was a long silence. Finally one player was bold enough to ask, “Who’s Elmer McAllister? We never heard of him.” The coach snapped back, “Of course you never heard of him — he quit!”

 

Quitting is easy, it’s also very habit forming. Successful people have made a habit of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. Less successful people quit, the most successful people wouldn’t even consider it. 

 

If you’re tempted to quit, or even give less than your best effort, think about the goal that motivated you to begin in the first place. Re-dream that dream and then keep going. 

 

If that doesn’t motivate you to keep pushing forward, then think about Elmer McAllister.


Now get to work!

The Power of Planning

Plans don’t always work. I was reminded of that fact when a friend was telling a story from his childhood. 

 

His family had a large dog but he wanted a hamster. His parents surprised him one day with a hamster all is own. The dog was overly “interested” in the hamster so my friend made a plan to keep the hamster safe and sound. 

 

His plan involved keeping the hamster in a box with a clothesline running through it. He would attach one end of the clothesline to one wall and the other end to the opposite wall. He was sure to hang it high enough so that the dog couldn’t reach it. He was at least as sure as a ten year old could be. 

 

He was pretty sad upon returning from school one day to find his beloved hamster in multiple pieces with the box laying nearby. I guess hanging the box five feet off the floor was just too enticing a target for a dog that stood 3-1/2 feet on all fours. 

 

As elaborate a plan as it was for a ten year old it just didn’t work out. 

 

So plans don’t always work but here is the good news…planning almost always does. I should say that planning almost always works, or is beneficial if…. you’re using a solid planning process. 

 

With that in mind here is an 8-step planning process I’ve written about before. I’ve used it for years as have many other successful people I know. It simply works.

 

Step one is to develop a clear and honest picture of your current situation. Many people don’t get to where they want to go because they have no idea where they are starting from. If you’re not completely honest with yourself in this step the rest of the process is likely doomed to fail. 

 

Step two is stating a very specific understanding and vision of your desired situation or outcome. Specificity is the key here, if your desired outcome is murky your results will be too. 

 

Step three is where the real work begins. That’s where you develop short, medium and long range goals. A short range goal could be a day, week or even a month. The longest range goals can be as far out into the future as you like but there must be an end date. Someday is NOT on your calendar or anybody else’s. Don’t mess around with this, the end date must be in your expected lifetime. (Yes, I’ve actually seen people set goals for after they are dead) Your goals must be specific, measurable, realistic, and timed. I repeat, someday is not a real day. 

 

Step four is where the actual plans are developed. What actions are you willing to take each day to get closer to one or more of your goals? What will you change to make it happen? (The only way something doesn’t need to change is if you have already achieved the goal) What are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals? 

 

One point I’d like to make here. I wrote what actions are you willing to take each day to get closer to your goals. It is my personal belief that no matter how busy you may have been on any given day, if you didn’t get closer to either a personal or professional goal you were not productive. Successful people do not mistake a busy day for a productive one and if you want to be successful then you shouldn’t either.

 

Step five is determining the investment you are willing to make to ensure that your plan succeeds. While you are determining the investment you’re willing to make don’t forget that every successful outcome likely requires two things, money AND time. Believe it or not the money part is often easier than the time part. I can’t tell you the number of times I made a plan to get in better shape. I set some goals, joined a club, wrote a big fat check and failed. I failed because I never committed the time to actually go to the club. After many expensive memberships I finally determined it just wasn’t a priority in my life. Don’t make my mistake, if you’re not committed to your plan then you’re not committed to success.

 

Step six is setting up your time table. Most people think this is only about deadlines. That’s a common mistake. Just as important as when the plan will come to fruition is determining when you will put the plan into action. I’ve seen many a great plan never implemented. If there are not specific action steps built into your plan, including the very first action you will take, then you may have a decent plan but your planning process is fatally flawed. 

 

Step seven is launching the plan. Put some air under its wings, take the first action you’ve planned and see what happens. 

 

Step eight is the follow-up step. Hopefully you have trusted people in your life that you have shared your plan with. Revisit your plan with them often. The fact that everything isn’t happening exactly as you planned doesn’t mean the plan was bad, stuff happens. The best news is your plan allows you to see where and how you’ve gotten off track, that makes it much easier to get back on. 

 

Very few plans remain completely intact throughout the process of implementing them. Don’t let the first hiccup derail your success, adjust, re-launch, and move forward. Repeat as often as necessary. 

 

My friend got another hamster, he used a nearly identical plan to protect it. The second plan merely included the addition of a ladder to hang the box higher. Work your plan as designed, adjust as needed, and you’ll go higher too. 


That’s the power of planning! 

Ten Cent Words

My grandfather was a pretty wise man and I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with him. He owned a corner grocery store for four decades and for several years I would go with him to the produce market at 4:00am every Saturday morning. It was in those early hours of the day when I learned the most. 

 

Of the many things he taught me one still stands out above most others, perhaps it is because at the time I had no idea what he meant. He said that people who want to sound smart will use a ten cent word when a five cent word would be perfectly fine. He also said that people who actually are smart would never waste a ten cent word when a five cent word was enough. 

 

What I came to understand was that smart people don’t try to impress people with big words. They speak as plainly as they can. They also don’t use more words than are needed. 

 

For instance, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of history’s most famous and remembered speeches – the Gettysburg Address. It was 273 words. It took 2 minutes to deliver. The main address that day (the one Lincoln followed) was given by Edward Everett (known to be one of the greatest speakers of the time) and lasted 2 hours. His note to Lincoln after the event said…“I should be glad, if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

 

Are you a Lincoln or an Everett?  Let me ask that another way; do you use 50 words when 25 would do? Are you using ten cent words when five cent words would convey the identical message?  

 

I once took a presentation class where I was assigned a topic to speak on. I was given 10 minutes for my presentation without much coaching. When I was done I was assigned to speak on the subject a second time. This time I was only allowed 8 minutes and instructed that I could not leave out any of the key points I made in the first presentation. 

 

When I finished the second presentation I was told to make the presentation yet again, with the same key points but to complete it in six minutes. This went on for a few more rounds until I was given just two minutes to make the same presentation with the same key points. 

 

The coaching at this point was rather intense but I managed to pull it off. The point of the exercise was very clear… most of the words I had used in my first presentation added nothing of consequence to the presentation. They may have made me sound smarter (well, maybe) but they did nothing to assist my listeners in understanding my message. In fact, the fewer words I used the easier it was for my audience to understand. 

 

So I ask again, are you a Lincoln or an Everett? It’s takes a lot of practice to make your point while using fewer words, I struggle with that often. (Just ask my wife, kids, dogs, or anyone around me a lot) 


The next time you’re preparing a presentation or even just engaged in a conversation with a friend, consider the simplicity of a five cent word. You can save the ten cent words for when you’re trying to impress yourself.