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    Top 5 sales habits to start in the New Year

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    Research shows that most New Year resolutions are abandoned within the first three months. In fact, if you made a resolution and have stuck to it firmly after even just a few days, you’re already ahead of a large portion of resolvers.

    If you’d like to be among those who maintain their resolutions and achieve their goals this year, you may be interested in new research from the peer-reviewed journal, the Public Library of Science. It reveals a simple trick that substantially improves your odds of succeeding. 

    That trick? Change how you frame your resolution.

    Instead of stating that you will stop or finish doing something, this research indicates that you’re better off stating that you will “start doing” something. For instance, “In 2021, I will begin to choose healthier foods” is better than “In 2021, I will stop eating junk food.”

    In the spirit of this new research, and to help you achieve everything you want, here are 5 sales habits to start in the New Year.

    1. Start examining your assumptions

    Assumptions are one of the biggest killers of deals, and we make them all the time. We assume that the buyer knows what they want. We assume that the “decision-maker” is the only influence on the buying decision. We assume that the buyer cares about our features and benefits. And so on.

    This year, encourage your sales team to examine their assumptions, while you examine yours. Some of the biggest assumptions that sales leaders make include:

    • That salespeople are born, not made
    • That salespeople are naturally disciplined
    • That buyers and sellers make decisions using logic

    These assumptions lead to bad choices about how to train, support, and enable salespeople. They cause us to provide inadequate support for developing good habits. And they cause us to commit dozens of mistakes in how we interact with buyers.

    Instead of promising yourself to stop or finish, state that you will “start doing” something.

    To learn more about how these assumptions kill deals, and the underlying cognitive biases that we ignore at our peril, check out the first three chapters of my book, Stop Killing Deals.

    2. Start creating checklists

    When the surgeon Atul Gawande wanted to understand how to increase safety in the hospitals he worked for, he looked to the airline industry. Since the very beginning of commercial flight, the airline industry has boasted an almost perfect safety record, unparalleled in any other industry.

    In American healthcare, on the contrary, mistakes by medical teams are a leading cause of death. Gawande thought the airline industry’s safety record might have something to teach hospitals about reducing these deaths.

    What Gawande found was that the flight industry didn’t have more expertise or better training than the medical industry. It just had better checklists.

    Early in commercial flight history, pilots and other air travel workers developed routines for inspecting the aircraft and performing other safety tasks. They turned them into checklists and then empowered everyone on the flight team to call a halt to take-off if anything was amiss or if an item was missed on the checklist.

    Gawande wondered what would happen if surgeons and other medical workers did the same for routine safety tasks like washing hands, preparing surgical instruments, and marking surgical sites. It turns out, what it did was reduce medically-induced injuries and deaths by astounding percentages.

    Checklists work for salespeople as well. They help us stay on task and avoid making simple mistakes. And they free up brainpower so the salesperson can focus on making the sale rather than on trying to remember which steps and milestones  have been completed.

    To improve sales performance in 2021, add checklists to your sales processes. Find out what buyers need to make their decision, and then align your processes, milestones, and checklists for salespeople to be the guiding light.

    Empower sales teams to call a halt to a sales process when important milestones aren’t completed. Better yet, use software like Membrain to embed checklists and milestones into the workflows and require salespeople to achieve them before getting ahead of themselves.

    3. Start to streamline workflows within your CRM

    There are not many pieces of technology that have a greater impact on sales than the CRM. Yet often, the CRM is a clunky, overly complex mess of dropdown boxes and ugly interfaces that salespeople use only under duress.

    This situation slows salespeople down, interrupts their flow, and fails to deliver the sales enablement and support that would help them shine. This year, commit to taking a close look at how your salespeople are working in the CRM, and how it is supporting them - or not.

    Ideally, salespeople should be able to remain in the same workflow all day. A great CRM system will support their workflow rather than interfere with it, providing them with beautiful, user-friendly interactions that guide them and provide them with everything they need, when they need it.

    This year, start streamlining your workflows and look into upgrading your CRM technology to allow for easy, beautiful interactions.

    4. Start to make coaching a priority

    It is often said that coaching is a critical multiplier for your sales performance. Yet many sales organizations, year after year, fail to prioritize, train, and support their managers to perform this critical function.

    This year, take the time to look at your coaching program and start making it a priority. Clear time in the sales leaders’ schedules for coaching. Teach them to establish regular coaching cadences with their salespeople. Enlist professionals to develop your coaching development program.

    If you’re a sales manager, make time in your own schedule for regular one-on-ones and group coaching calls, in addition to the ad hoc coaching you probably already do. Push your organization to support this effort and recognize its value. Take it step by step and make progress throughout the year to reap the benefits by the end of the year.

    5. Start analyzing your wins as well as your losses

    When a sale is lost, everyone wants to know why. What did we do wrong, who won it, why did they win it instead of us, who on our team messed up? When we win, mostly we want to pat ourselves on the back and celebrate.

    Loss analysis is valuable and important, but so is win analysis. After the celebration is complete, there is a lot to be learned by asking:

    • What did we do right?
    • How many stakeholders did we engage and when?
    • What about this opportunity made this a success?
    • What characteristics do won deals share?
    • What aspects of the sales process consistently work well?

    Develop a habit of checking in with new customers to ask them these questions and get their perspective on why they chose you. Establish metrics and analyze common features of profitable wins. Then use what you learn to continually improve your sales process and qualification criteria.

    So instead of sales resolutions you can’t keep this year, begin new habits that you can. 

    And to help your salespeople do the same, establish the right frameworks to support them. My book, Stop Killing Deals, is a great place to grab the tools and frameworks you need. Or reach out to one of our partners to discuss how they can help you transform your performance this year.

    George Brontén
    Published January 6, 2021
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn