Eight bad sales habits to break in 2016

The new year is the perfect time to get rid of bad habits, especially when those bad habits are hurting your sales. Here are eight sales habits to break in 2016.

February 8, 2016


We all do it – let bad habits fester, expand and become part of our regular execution. Some of these habits are worse than others, but collectively our bad habits draw us away from the success we desire.

I’ve found this to be particularly true for sales professionals. The best, most consistent-performing reps are machines – not just for creating new opportunities but for consistently executing on their plan every day.

The most successful salespeople in any organization obsess about consistent, disciplined execution. They obsess about following and keeping the habits that made them successful in the first place.

To make room for good habits, sales professionals (and managers!) must eliminate or mitigate the bad habits first. That’s not always easy, and oftentimes requires persistence (they’re called habits for a reason).

Step one, of course, is identifying the habits to eliminate. Below are eight habits I see most often among otherwise well-intentioned sales reps that keep them from success.

1. Not planning

If you let the day dictate where you focus, you’re following everybody else’s priorities except for your own. When you leave work the day before, you should already know the best way to spend your next day. You similarly should have a plan for the week, the month and the quarter. Best-laid plans are likely to change – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse – but you won’t ever consistently achieve success if you don’t start with – and stay mostly focused on – a good plan.

2. Not being intentional about time

There is a sub-set of planning that’s incredibly important for customer-facing professionals. Ask yourself:

  • What do you do first thing in the morning to set up your day?
  • How do you keep yourself focused on priority tasks without taking a social media break every five minutes?
  • How do you give yourself intentional breaks so that you’re refreshed and ready to focus on execution again afterward?

3. Relying too much on digital communication

As Joanne Black is famous for saying, “Pick up the damn phone!”. Don’t hide behind digital channels that are saturated, and where you will more likely blend in with everyone else. Find ways to differentiate yourself, and deepen your most important relationships beyond email and social.

4. Not being coachable

Best athletes in the world? They have coaches. The most successful business leaders of the past 100 years? They had coaches too. If you’re not open to constructive feedback, if you’re not receptive or even proactive about getting input from others, you’re missing a huge opportunity to get better.

5. Not being proactive and disciplined about learning & reading

You will always find better things to do with your time than to read blog posts, newsletters, or new sales books. Prospecting and selling will feel more important than learning. Just know that the most successful professionals in the world (sales and otherwise) are voracious readers and learners. They dedicate time to learning because they know it makes their execution time far more effective.

6. Not recalibrating & adjusting

This requires not just an agile mentality but also the openness and regularity of making adjustments to internal and external changes. There’s a clear, optimal mix between defining your plan of action up front but being open to change when necessary. Too much change creates inefficiency and crazy-making.

7. Not following up

Without a system and/or process, you might call prospects once and forget subsequent follow-ups that increase your chance of engagement and conversion. Without a dedicated system for engaging longer-term leads, you often lack the required frequent touches that lead to more opportunities, referrals and upsells. Following up may very well be the single-most important habit sales professionals develop to be successful. So simple, yet so elusive for far too many.

8. Focus on busy & quantity vs. quality

Just because you get in early and leave late doesn’t mean you’re productive, or successful. Cleaning out your inbox is worthless if it’s not advancing your own objectives. Sending 20 percent more emails with your shiny new sales automation solution only means 20 percent more spam messages unless you have something interesting to say. Be in the habit of delivering value to your prospects, and prioritizing quality interactions and activities vs hitting an arbitrary quantity metric.