First We Form Habits, Then They Form Us

“First we form habits, 

then they form us.”

–Bob Moawad, Edge Learning Institute

I just worked with a great inside sales team in Louisville, KY (hi Kathy, Darryl and the team!), and this week they begin working with a new, best practice approach that is going to make them much more successful. I’m excited for them! At the close of each day of training, I told them that the biggest challenge isn’t going to be learning the new scripted approach (although that will definitely take some effort), but rather it will be in unlearning their old habits.

Now don’t get me wrong, habits are a good thing and without them we couldn’t get much done. In fact, the great thing about forming a habit is that once you do, you can rely on it almost unconsciously and so devote your time and energy to other things. Just think about driving your car. Once you learn how, you no longer have to take the time to learn how to pull out into traffic, change lanes, or learn how to parallel park. You just get in and your habit of driving takes over!

When you come to think about it, our lives are made up of a series of habits: habits of eating and exercise, of communicating with other people, family members, etc., and hundreds of other routines of living (think about brushing your teeth – do you floss?). Just imagine how much more difficult life would be if you had to learn all these things over every day!

So habits are a wonderful thing – if they are good ones. Unfortunately, we also can develop bad habits. Once, when I was working onsite for a few months many years ago, I got in the habit of visiting the food truck at the 10:00 A.M. break. They had the most delicious French Fries with a tangy salt, and I developed the habit of having them every day. Well, after three months I had put on almost five pounds.

That’s when I remembered today’s quote. What I found was that the French Fries habit I had formed was suddenly forming me! And when you think about it, all habits work the same way. And this is especially true in sales. If we develop poor prospecting habits, then we create unqualified prospects and appointments. This leads to a low closing percentage. If we develop an aversion to asking for the order, then we tend to create a lot of call backs.

Because many sales teams have developed bad selling habits, the first thing they need to do is unlearn the bad habits before they can learn newer, better ones. Here are three tips for doing just that:

  • The first thing you want to do is make sure it is easy for you to adopt the new habit of a better approach. In the case of learning a new scripted sales approach, I always like to use the Adele example. How many of you know the words to the song, “Hello”? Lots of you, right? That’s because you’ve heard it a hundred times!

The best way to learn a new script is to record yourself practicing it into a recording device (all smart phones have one), and then commit to listening to your recording 30 to 40 times. If you do that, then using them will become an easier habit for you.

  • Record yourself. Because habits are mostly unconscious, we often don’t even know when we’re using them! By recording yourself, and then listening to your recordings daily, you will become aware of what you’re saying, and you’ll have the ability to change that.
  • Reward yourself when you use the new scripted approach. When you catch yourself using the new scripts, give yourself some positive reinforcement. Hit a “That was easy” Staples button (get one for your desk), or use positive affirmations to support yourself. I used to say to myself, “See, I knew I could do it. And watch this, I’m going to do it again!”

Just know that the good news is that once you displace an old habit with a more effective one, the new one will take on a life of its own as well. That’s why top sales producers remain top sales producers regardless of what company they work for or what product or service they are selling.

So commit to learning a better practice approach in your sales environment, and then commit to developing it into a habit. When you do, you’ll find that your new habit will soon be forming a more successful and productive you!

Current Prospecting Tips that Work

Do you hate prospecting by phone? “Who doesn’t?” is probably your answer. And who can blame you. First you have to deal with gatekeepers, receptionists, office managers, etc.

Then, if you do finally get through to someone, you get blow offs, resistance, and the old, “Just email me something, and I’ll look at it.” Yeah, right.

Imagine if I told you many of the ways you’re approaching your prospects are actually causing the objections you’re getting? Some of the wrong things to say are:

“Did I reach you at a good time?”

And

“I’m just calling to learn a little more about your company…”

Many sales reps think they are being polite when they use these kinds of openings, but in reality they’re just making it easy for prospects to blow them off.

Wouldn’t you like to know:

  • Better ways of opening your conversations?
  • Proven ways to deal with gatekeepers?
  • Word for word scripts to deal with common blow offs like “Just email me something?”

If you’ve read this far, then you’re in luck. By clicking the link below, you’ll get access to a 34 page sample of my new book, “Power Phone Scripts: 500 Questions, Phrases, and Word-For-Word Scripts to Help You Open and Close More Sales.”

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Get your sample here.

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Your Comfort Zone and Your Success

“Everything you want in the world is just right outside

your comfort zone. Everything you could possibly want!”

– Jennifer Aniston, actress

I once heard a joke that goes like this: “The only reason there are matinee movies in large metropolitan cities is for commission sales reps who have hit their comfort zone income early in the month.”

I remember my thoughts when I first heard this. I remember thinking that when I got near the production I needed to make my expenses for the month, I let my foot off the pedal. Once I knew I was covered, I just wanted to relax.

I remember how it was in the early part of my career, I was more interested in getting by than in succeeding. I didn’t have any goals, and I certainly didn’t see myself advancing in my career. Inside I was secretly hoping to go back to school and get my doctorate in psychology. I was just sort of hanging out in my job until the time was right.

What always interested me though, were the top producers. There were three people in my company who made considerably more money than me and it showed. They drove beautiful cars, and owned homes, and won all the bonuses. I had no idea how they did it, and it wasn’t until I heard about the concept of a comfort zone that I put it all together.

What I learned is that the only difference between my production and those of the top 20% was what we expected of ourselves, and how hard we were willing to work to get it. I learned that if I wanted to achieve more, in my job or even back in school, then I had to be willing to examine and step outside my comfort zone.

If I wanted more from my job, I had to get to work earlier, use a scripted, best practice approach, record myself daily, etc. That was the “try harder” part. But it also meant that I needed to expect more. I had to be willing to step outside of my comfort zone and think bigger.

This was the hardest part because it meant I needed to believe I could have and I could achieve more. It was hard to change my expectations and my beliefs, but I did it incrementally by setting small goals and achieving those first. It was then easier to raise my goals a little more. By doing this over time, I raised my comfort zone.

In my experience, everything and anything is possible if I’m willing to believe it is. I like to say that if anyone else has something or has done something, then I can do it, too. And so can you – as long as you are willing to get out of your comfort zone and put in the work.

The Importance of Following Up

Let me ask you this: If you just met with a really hot prospect, how long would you wait before you followed up? A day? A couple of days? A week?

Here’s my experience with a couple of real estate agents a while ago:

My wife and I were selling our home and interviewed some real estate agents to represent us. I got a couple of referrals from some good friends in our neighborhood, reached out to them, and told them we wanted to meet.

I think I’d call that a hot lead, wouldn’t you?

So one night we met the first agents – a husband and wife team – who had been selling real estate in our neighborhood for years, and claimed to be the Number One agents in this area (it’s odd that the other two agents we met with also claimed to be the Number One agents as well, but that’s a discussion for another article).

We spent a couple of hours with this team, really like them, liked their recent experience and success on the next block over, and loved their strategy. We told them that we’d be meeting with another agent referral the next night but that we would get back with them the day after that.

O.K., so now comes the test: When would you, if you were them, get back with us?

The right answer is 9 A.M. the very next morning. If I were them, I would have sent a quick email saying it was so nice meeting my wife and me, that I really liked the house, and that I was confident I could sell our home using the strategy I had outlined. I’d say if there was anything I could do, just reach out to me, and that I look forward to speaking with them (me) very soon.

No brainer, right? Well, we got….nothing.

Okay. So the next night we had the other agents over – a team of two “Number One” selling agents in our area. We liked their pitch also, and we were impressed by how much they wanted to list our house for. In fact, when they left, we were leaning towards hiring them. We told them about the other couple we met, and told them we’d have an answer for them in the morning…

Now, how long do you think it took for them to follow up with us?

Believe it or not, they didn’t reach back out to us for over a week!

A week! I’m still stunned because, as we told them we’d have a definite answer by the very next morning. Did we get a follow up email? No. Did we get a follow up phone call? No. Here we are a HOT lead, and they didn’t even follow up?!

What’s wrong with these sales people?

In the meantime, the first couple emailed us the next day asking what happened with our other meeting and expressed their strong desire to work with us. When we told them about how the other team wanted to list our house for more money, they immediately cautioned against that and told us they wanted to meet with us again – that day even – to explain their strategy again. They redeemed themselves and ended up getting our business.

So here’s the lesson for all you sales reps and business owners out there – don’t wait days or weeks to follow up prospects! Especially the hot ones! A simple email that thanks them for their time, acknowledges how much you learned and how excited you are to help them will go A LONG WAY to earning you their business.  Especially since not many other sales reps have this kind of urgency.

If you need some follow up strategies that really work, along with some word for word emails and voicemails, then invest in my new book: Power Phone Scripts: 500 Phrases, Questions, and Word-for-Word Scripts to Open and Close More Sales.

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General Patton on Singleness of Focus

“You must be single-minded. Drive
for the one thing on which you have decided.”

–George S. Patton Jr.
U.S. Army General

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big multi-tasker. This is especially true at work. When I get in each morning, I look at my calendar of to do’s, and as soon as I get started on one task, my email beeps, and I take on something else. Next, my assistant reminds me of an article or email I need to write, so I start that as well. Then a client asks for something, and before long, I’m doing five things at once. The next thing I know, it’s 5 P.M., and I haven’t done any of my follow up calls, let alone prospecting. If you’re like many other professionals I know, you can probably relate.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking multi-tasking. In some applications, like straightening up my office or gardening, it’s great. But I learned a long time ago that in business – or any other major endeavor – having singleness of focus is crucial to being ultra-successful and accomplishing the goal that is going to give my life the most impact. And anytime I forget this, I pay for it. For example:

In my business as a consultant, I get approached by other companies and people all the time to resell or become a side vendor for their product or service. Years ago, I would divert my attention lots of times and plunge in, thinking I could develop another source of revenue for my consulting practice. Instead, what almost always happened is the moment I took my absolute focus off my core business – consulting and training – my income and the growth of my practice suffered.

A specific example of this is a company and service I love and still use called Send Out Cards. Some of you may know that it’s a direct marketing company (multi-level marketing), that creates and sends out customized greeting cards and gifts. When I was introduced to SOC, I knew at once what a great asset it would be for my business. It allowed me to create a customized campaign of cards that keeps me top of mind for prospects of my business. I signed up and started using it immediately (and still do).

When I signed up though, I also signed up as a distributor. Because I had a list of thousands of other business people who would benefit from using cards to keep them top of mind as well, it was a no-brainer that I become a reseller. So I plunged in. I spent time giving webinars every month, answered countless emails, had phone conferences and training sessions. My goal was to build a substantial downline and then sit back as thousands of dollars rolled in in residual income.

What happened was very different. As I took my attention and energy off my consulting business, my prospects dried up and my income went down. Soon, I was pulled in two different directions, and I wasn’t making much money from either of them! I realized that I needed to get back to my core business, and that I needed to put my sole focus on it. I did that, and after a few months, my prospect list was full, and I was booking lots of business again. What I learned is what General Patton is talking about in this quote: Pick one thing and focus and drive towards it. If you do, you’ll be successful at it.

I can point to countless examples of how important singleness of focus is: concentrating on school full time; committing to being a top producer when I was in sales; becoming a world class consultant/trainer in inside sales. Whenever I focus on just one thing – full time – I succeed quickly at it. Whenever I try to multi-task, however, or do two or three things at once, they all suffer, and I don’t make much progress.

I’ll end with Brian Tracy’s advice on goal setting: Make a list of ten super important goals for the next 12 months. After you have, look at that list and identify the one that, if you were to accomplish it, would have the greatest impact on your life and your future. Once you have identified it, throw the other nine away and concentrate, 100%, on the one goal that will mean the most for your life.

Just remember, multi-tasking is great for somethings, but for the big things, the life changing things, singleness of focus is the key to success.

Hard Work Pays Off: I’m So Annoyed My Father Was Right

“Hard work pays off. I am so
annoyed at my father for being
right about that.”

–Lena Dunham, actress

This quote sure struck a chord with me. I can still hear my own father telling me how important hard work was. He used to say, “There’s no substitute for hard work, Michael.” And he used to practice what he preached. He was always the first one up in the morning, around 5am, and he wouldn’t return until after 7:30pm. He would spend an hour or so chatting with my mom after dinner, and then it was time for bed.

As a young teenager, I followed his lead. I used to work the summer doing odd jobs for people, for $1.10 an hour, and when I was 16 years old, I got my first job at Jack in the Box. I saved my own money for my first car, and when I was 17 years old, I had three jobs after school and even moved into my own apartment. I worked my way through UCLA, but when I graduated and started my first inside sales job, something changed.

When I watched some of the top brokers at my new company make big money and saw them wearing nice suits and driving nice cars, I thought that after a few months on the phone, I had paid my dues and that I should have that, too. In fact, after making hundreds of cold calls, I felt I deserved it….

But that didn’t happen. After three months, I was struggling, and then resenting my lack of success. “Don’t you know who I am?” I thought to myself. “I’m a college graduate” (more than I could say about many of the reps there), and after three more months, I was secretly thinking that I could probably run the company.

Did they acknowledge me? Nope. So what did I do? I copped more resentments and started hanging out at the break room grumbling with the other bottom performers. As I was sneaking out early one Friday, my manager confronted me and read me the riot act. He told me I was never going to succeed if I wasn’t willing to work for it.

That weekend, after I got over my new resentment at him, I began thinking about what my father had always said. I began thinking about how hard he worked. I asked myself how hard I was working and how much time and effort I had been putting in. My honest answer was not very much.

When I got back to the office that Monday, I found that the top producers were already there and they had even written some deals already. When I was about to go home at 4:30pm, they were still there, in full swing. And that’s when it hit me: If I want to succeed, I’m going to have to work hard – a lot harder than I thought I already was.

Fast forward nine months later. After making a commitment, putting in the time, and putting in the effort, I became a top producer at that company. I was the first one in the office and the last to leave. And as I put my first deals on the board in the morning, I watched the bottom producers straggle in and head to the coffee and donuts. I watched them grumble that they hadn’t been promoted yet, that the good leads went to other people, and how hard the competition was.

After they had long left the office, I turned out the lights in the office, locked the door behind me, and got into my Mercedes. I was dog tired. Suddenly, I realized how my father must have felt each evening. I smiled to myself when I realized that he had been right all along….

A Kick in the Teeth May be Good for You

“You may not realize it when it happens,
but a kick in the teeth may be the best
thing in the world for you.”
– Walt Disney

When I read this quote, I immediately resonated with it. The kick in the teeth came for me when I lost one of the most important sales in my young sales career. While we never like losing a sale, sometimes when we do there can be some good that comes from it. There sure was the case for me. Here’s what happened.

I had been working as an investment broker for about two years, and I wasn’t very good at it. Sometimes I’d have a good month, and most other months were pretty bad. I was living paycheck to paycheck, and in between, I was living on my credit cards. In fact, my cards were maxed out then this occurred. I desperately needed a sale to pay my rent, and if I could close one that day, I could ask the boss for an advance so I had some spending money for the weekend.

Luckily, I had sent a prospectus to a solid client who purchased a share in every deal I sent him. And luckily again, we had a new deal that had just been released, so I Federal Expressed it to him and was anxiously looking forward to closing him. If he did his normal one unit in the new deal, I would earn $1,000 – just enough for rent money and $200 left over for the weekend.

It was a Friday, a hot day in late May, and I came into the office with a bit of a lightness in my step. I was feeling a mixture of hope, mild enthusiasm, and just a little bit of fear. Mostly, though, I was pretty sure my client would buy and that I would skate through another month of existence.

The appointed time came, and I dialed my client’s phone number and he picked right up. I told him I had been looking forward to speaking with him and asked if he had received the new program. What he said next was the kick in the teeth I hadn’t expected…

He said, “I did get it Mike, and after looking at it, I think we’re going to pass on this one. Give me a call on the next one.” Then he hung up on me.

Devastated, shocked, overwhelmed with dread, these and many other horrible emotions flooded me. I stood holding the receiver to my ear until the fast beeping came on. Slowly I hung the phone up, and my thoughts shifted to how I was going to pay the rent, put gas in my car for the weekend, etc. I was basically ruined.

I went for a long walk in the heat of the San Fernando Valley, and many things went through my mind like how did I ever get into sales to begin with; what I was going to do after I quit the job that day; what was going to be different for me at my next job; what was going to become of me….

And then another thought occurred to me. I thought that if I quit this job as a loser, then I’d just quit again if and when the going got tough at my next job. Then I started thinking of the top three producers at my present company, and thought of the nice cars they drove, the nice suits they wore, and about the houses they owned. And I realized that if they could be successful there, then I could too.

In fact, I made a commitment right then and there. I committed that I would learn and begin doing everything they were doing, and that I wouldn’t give up until I, too, had become a top producer. My mantra became: If they can do it, I can do it better. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I committed to working harder, investing time and energy (and money) in myself, and that I was going to do any and everything I could to succeed before I gave up.

Over the course of the next 90 days, I went from last place in sales production, to first place. I literally transformed my sales performance and my life. I did it with dedication and hard work. I was the first person in the office and the last to leave. I worked nights and weekends listening to my recorded calls and made adjustments to my scripts. I copied the techniques of the top producers and visualized phenomenal results. I was driven; I was willing.

I had experienced the kick in the teeth that is good for you, as Walt said. While it felt horrible to have that client not buy from me that day, I now know that if that if he had, I would have gone on living hand to mouth. I didn’t know it then, but when he said no, it was the beginning of a new commitment and a new life.

Today, when something doesn’t go as planned, I ask myself what I can learn, and how this can be good for me.

Apps for Recording Your Phone Calls

Years ago, Stan Billue – the top inside sales trainer at the time – made a claim that every sales rep could double their income in 90 days by doing one thing. Intrigued (and highly skeptical), I listened to what he said next, and then challenged myself to do it. His advice was:

Record and listen to your calls, every day, for 90 days.

So I did. And 90 days later, I had indeed doubled my sales, and my commission. I was sold on the technique, and have since made it the cornerstone of my training and consulting practice. Why? Because it works! Nothing will make you more aware of all the areas you need improvement in (or of exactly how to improve), more than listening to yourself in action with a prospect.

With many people using cell phones these days for at least a portion of the calls they make, I get many requests of the best way to record calls using a cell phone. I was reading The Week magazine the other day, and they listed the following “Best apps” for cell phone recording. I thought you’d want to know about them:

Automatic Call Recorder Pro really is “automatic. The app records either every call or those from specific contacts. “You simply set it and forget it while it records your calls in the background.” ($7 Android only)

TapeACall Pro is a recording app that provides “just about every feature you could want,” including savable MP3 files. The setup for each call takes a moment, and the app costs $10, plus $8 a year for unlimited recording. “But if you do a lot of recording, it’s well worth it.”

Call Recording by NoNotes is a free app that offers most standard features plus built-in voice transcription, making it handy for recording interviews.

Call Record might annoy you with its ads, but for a free app, it’s “about as good as you’re going to get,” and can record every call automatically. As with all recording apps, be alert to state laws restricting recording.

Source: Gizmomo.com

What Stan said all those years ago is still true today: If you want to double your income in 90 days, then make a commitment to recording and reviewing your calls every day. And now, with these apps, you no longer have any excuse not to.

Why the ‘will to win’ isn’t enough…

“It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”  –Paul “Bear” Bryant, football coach

It took a long time for me, as a struggling sales rep, to understand the difference in attitude and action this quote speaks to. But once I did, my sales results (and my life) changed.

I used to be an inside sales rep, a financial broker selling LLC partnerships, in a company with 25 other reps. The company had the top 20% reps doing 80% of the sales. I wasn’t in that group, rather, I was bringing up the rear. Sales were hard to get, and as a result, my life as a sales rep was hard as well.

I wanted to do better; I had the will to win, but what I lacked was the will to prepare to win. I was one of the reps who came in right before my shift began, and I went for the coffee and donuts first. I hung around there talking about the latest sports scores with the other bottom producers. I couldn’t wait for lunch time, and by Friday, I didn’t work too hard.

After a series of events, I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I made a commitment to give my profession as a broker all I could. I decided to do what was necessary for me to move into the top 20% of the producers at the company. And that’s when I learned what the ‘will to prepare to win’ meant.

To start with, I started showing up an hour before work began, and I headed straight to my desk to begin making calls. This began to pay off as some days I’d have a deal on the board before other reps headed for their coffee and donuts.

I spent my lunch hours listening to my calls and critiquing them. Yes, I was horrible in the beginning, but I was committed to finding ways to make them better. And I did.

At night before I went home, I took an extra half hour to lay out all my leads and call backs for the next day so I could hit the ground running when I got in. And then I’d listen to my calls in the car on the way home and make adjustments to the scripts during the evening.

Before I went to sleep, I focused my subconscious on closing the leads I had laid out, and I dreamt of ways to close them. I visualized how I would feel once I became a top closer, what I’d do with my first bonus check and how good that would feel as well.

After 90 days of doing this, I became the top producer in the company. Suddenly I knew the difference between the will to win and the will to prepare to win. I also found that I wasn’t alone. There with me in the mornings and in the evenings were the other top producers.

Today, I find that I can do just about anything if I’m willing to put in the time to prepare to win. You can too – if you’re willing to put in the time.

The question is, are you?

The Five Second Rule

Thoughts are things. As true as the law of gravity, this is one of the fundamental laws in the universe. Whatever you believe with feeling, you bring into your life.

And like gravity, you don’t have to believe in it for it to always be working in your life. Take gravity for example. If you were to step off a ten-story building, the law of gravity would take over and you would fall ten stories to the ground. Again, whether you believed in gravity or not.

And it is the same with the law of thought. Take your sales career, for example. Isn’t it true that what you think about your company, about the leads, about the market, and especially about your income is exactly how you find it to be in your life? Now you may say that you think about everything the way it is because, well, that’s the way it is at your job.

But what if it was that way because that’s the way you think about it?

My experience has been (and thousands of others I have worked with over the years), that when I decided to make more money, and was committed to putting in the time and effort required for me to achieve that goal, then I started thinking about things (and seeing them) entirely differently.

And as soon as I started thinking and believing differently, my results automatically changed to reflect my new way of thinking.

Suddenly the leads weren’t as bad as I thought they were; instead, I just worked them smarter and qualified better. Suddenly the market wasn’t the problem (there were still top producers outperforming all others in our company, after all), it actually was the way I had been closing. And once I visualized myself earning a higher income, I achieved it.

The key to my success and to using my thoughts to bring something new into my life, was to stay focused on the feeling of having already achieved it. The more I could consistently do this, the faster I manifested it in my life.

And that’s when I learned about the five second rule. I found that it was natural for me to fall back on my old thought patterns. But when I did, I gave myself five seconds to refocus on my new income goal. I kept returning, time and again, to my new goal and my new thoughts and feelings of having already achieved my goal.

By doing this, I was (and still am) able to bring new results into my life. And it’s because thoughts are things. Whatever you believe with feeling, you bring into your life.

If you want to change any result or circumstance in your life, then first decide how you want it to be different (get a specific goal), and then surround yourself with all the thoughts and feelings of what it will be like to achieve it. The moment you find yourself thinking of something negative or not in alignment with your goal, get back to that image within five seconds.

It will take some practice, but the more consistently you can change your thoughts, the sooner you will turn those thoughts into the things in your life.