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August 9, 2011 / Steve Hennigs

The Seven Habits and How They Relate to Sales

Many have read the wonderful book entitled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and if you have not I recommend picking up a copy.  The author Dr. Stephen R. Covey has been able to break down success into seven simple to follow life rules and has articulated them in such a way that they are very easy to understand and apply to your everyday life.

While the Seven Habits certainly apply to a broader spectrum I believe that there are specific ways that each of the Seven Habits directly apply to sales.  I have done my best to do so in my work with Siteimprove and wish to pass along that experience.

Habit 1: Being Proactive vs. Reactive

This one is a no brainer!  If you are reactive in sales you will lose a deal before you even know what hit you.  Having said that there are some particulars with this habit that we can focus on.

The first is growing your Circle of Influence while shrinking your Circle of Concern.  Simply put this means putting resources towards things you can control and not worrying about things you cannot.  You can control how much you prospect, how you prepare for a presentation and the amount effort you put towards individual accounts.  What you cannot control is how a prospect will react to your marketing material or sales pitch or if after all your hard work a prospect ultimately decides to purchase from your competition.

If you continually focus on your Circle of Influence you will ultimately become more productive while at the same time lower your stress levels as you shrink your Circle of Concern.

The second important application of this habit to sales is in the consequences of our decisions.  We as salespeople get to decide if we are honest with a prospect or if we follow through things we say we will do.  By having high integrity and being honest not only will we secure larger business deals but the company as a whole will benefit from our actions as word spreads about our actions.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

This habit is critical for a salesperson because in most cases we are our own boss (there may be a sales manager or director) and as such we are responsible for self motivation and good planning habits.

Beginning with the end in mind means to visualize success, develop a plan and then put that plan in action to achieve the success.  This can apply to simple everyday tasks like prospecting or more far-reaching goals like what you consider a successful year in sales would be.  By showing some personal leadership and management you can be in control of the salesperson you want to be.

  1. Determine your personal goals as they relate to sales
  2. Craft and refine what process to use in order to best achieve those goals
  3. Put those process into action and adjust where necessary

It is very important to continually improve your processes and even goals as your career continues in order for you to be as successful as you would like.  Covey suggests that one develops a personal mission statement.  While I have not done this myself there may be some value in doing so should that help you craft your goals.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

This habit is important because it is so easy to get off track when it comes to performing activities as salespeople that impact our bottom line.  Activities are broken down into four quadrants:

Time Management Matrix Urgent Not Urgent
Important I II
Not important III IV

75% of our energy should be directed towards Quadrant II activities, those that are Important but Not Urgent.  If you are adhering to the first two habits you should be able to determine what your QII activities are.  For me it is pretty simple:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Sales calls/presentations
  3. Closing business

By making these three activities the center of my focus I am able to use my time most efficiently.  There are other tasks that must be completed and that is done with either the remaining 25% of my time (writing this blog) or by delegating work to others (software support issues go to the support team).

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

This may be a bit cliché but there is definitely value in keeping to this state of mind.  If we think in terms of a sales cycle the win/win approach is certainly the most profitable for the company while at the same time optimally meeting the client’s needs.

In sales this involves listening intently to the prospect, providing a solution and price point that is agreeable and then the salesperson holding their ground if discounts or other perks are requested by the prospect.

If in a deal the company wins and the client loses the initial business is gained by the company but any return business is lost.  If the client wins and the company loses in many cases this means that the salesperson has compromised the company in future deals (perhaps a discount that another prospect catches wind of).

By thinking win/win throughout the entire sales process we can be sure the customer needs are met, appropriate terms of purchase are agreed upon and the overall chance of a successful business relationship is very high.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand

This is the most important habit in sales!

Salespeople who know how to listen first will always be successful because by doing so they can respond in such a way that appeals to the prospect.  This is due to the fact that the response is based on information provided by the prospect.

The trick is to listen with the intent to understand the person speaking, not with the intent to reply.  This is not easy and does take practice but once it becomes habit you will be able to really understand what a prospect needs/wants.  Then when the time comes to respond to the prospect in regards to why they should  use your product/service you can base your reasoning on information you understood from them.

There is an old saying that “people love to buy, but they hate being sold”.  If you understand a person before pitching them a person feels like they are buying, not being sold.

I eluded earlier in the post to the Circle of Influence.  Seeking first to understand is always in your Circle of Influence.

Habit 6: Synergize

While it could be said that this is much like Habit 4: Think Win/Win, there are some important additions in this habit.  We are urged to put personal agendas aside for the good of the project/team/etc.  Salespeople all have quotas and deadlines which can impact how a prospect is treated and that should not be the case.  If you have adapted the first 5 habits effectively then hitting a quota should not be your concern.

This is also a good habit for consumers to adapt as well.  Even though there may be some bias towards a particular product/service if in the end another product/service ultimately provides more value than that personal preference must be put aside for the good of the project.

Synergy is reached when trust and cooperation have hit their peak.  By thinking win/win and seeking first to understand you greatly increase your chances of synergy and ultimately closing more business.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

To sharpen the saw means to consistently improve in all areas of life; physically, mentally and emotionally.  This is of course very important in sales.

  • By being in good physical condition you will have more energy and confidence which are essential traits of an effective sales person.
    • Exercise regularly
    • Eat healthy
  • By always seeking more knowledge in regards to sales and the industry you sell to you can be at the top of your game and appropriately react to changing trends.
    • Read books, blogs, articles and news releases
    • Attend seminars and industry conferences
    • Sign up for webinars
  • Taking steps to reduce stress and remain emotionally fit will only benefit the time you spend selling.
    • Take vacations for a break
    • When you are off work, be off work
    • Find a hobby you enjoy
    • Spend time with family

This may seem like a lot to tackle but if you can follow the steps of learning the best approach for you to achieve your goals, committing to that process, and then following through you will be able to sharpen the saw effectively in all three areas.

If you have read the book or otherwise learned of the 7 habits I welcome your comments.  If you have not, I recommend picking up a copy and reading this post a second time.

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