Turn a Habit Into a Behavior


(By James Bahm) Making changes to your day-to-day approach is painful because 100% of change is uncomfortable. Sticking with the theme from last week that discipline, like medicine, doesn’t have to taste good to do good, I want to share some tips for AEs to sell and communicate better. I follow these principles daily and I’m sure you will see an increase in your close rate and sales volume if you implement them.

Here are some practices that will be uncomfortable to implement, but I guarantee that if you do these, your sales will improve, your clients will give you more referrals (and more of their ad budget), and success will follow.

  1. Don’t Only Solve for X
    Remember seventh-grade algebra when the teacher would give you 3X=21?  Answer 7 and you were golden.  This approach doesn’t work in sales.  When you receive an email from a customer, do you just answer their questions, or do you let them know everything that’s happening with their account?

I spent most of my morning answering questions from customers from one of my colleagues.  When I brought up their account information I looked at everything that was needed to move their project forward.  One customer asked about credit approval, and after looking at the notes, I realized that they needed three additional items for us to complete everything and proceed.

Whether you’re sending an email, text, or having a phone conversation, use as few words as possible with as many words as necessary to avoid future questions.

  1. Let Them Know Why It’s Needed
    With the aforementioned customer, I let them know that in addition to needing them to finish their credit paperwork, there were three additional items in their portal and listed them, with a brief note why they were needed.

Something as simple as:

Mr./Mrs. Customer,

You will notice we need you to complete form A because this will allow us to implement your schedule sooner.

Item B is required for us to offer your company credit.

Item C is there for you to read and acknowledge.  It is a list of all our contacts with direct lines and email addresses for specific questions that I may not be able to address.  You’ll also want to keep that list handy because I will be on vacation the next two weeks, and you will need to follow up with these colleagues in my absence.

  1. Start With No
    One habit you need to stop is getting customers to answer ‘yes’ to your questions.  Whether I have a call scheduled with a customer, or I’m calling them unexpectedly, the first thing I ask is, “Is this a bad time?”

I want them to say no.  Doing so gives them the illusion of control.  I learned this from Christopher Voss’s book Never Split the Difference.  Chris is the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI.  When your customer says no, it lowers their defenses and makes them feel like they’re in charge of the meeting, though in actuality, you’ll be leading them where you want them to follow.

When you get them to repeatedly say yes, they will become more guarded, and defensive.  Get them to say no, however, and you’ll see them visibly relax and open-up some.  You shirk this principle at your peril.

  1. Over Communicate
    If you have a phone call scheduled for 9 AM, send your customer an email or text about 10 minutes before then:

Mr./Mrs. Customer,

I will be giving you a call in a few minutes to go over ABC and XYZ. If you are not available, or you need to push our call back some, please let me know as soon as possible.  I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Then if you call and it goes to voicemail, leave a brief message letting them know you will try them back in five minutes.  Call them back, then send a follow-up email/text letting them know that per your voicemail, you’re following up on their questions about ABC and XYZ and you’ll be available to call back tomorrow or the day after.

  1. Tell Them What to Expect in Your Email or Call
    Another item I learned from Chris Voss is when you call out a negative you diminish it every time.

I have an email that I send to new customers that is about two paragraphs shorter than War and Peace.  Here is how I begin the email:

Mr./Mrs. Customer,

I know this is a very long email. It contains very important information that addresses several FAQs with details that will benefit you and make your transition with our company smoother.

I’ve been using this email for close to two years and I’ve never had a customer complain about its length; nor has anyone ever asked about any of the items I addressed.

Let me ask you something: Would you rather send one long email and address everything that’s needed and move the account closer to closing, or would you rather send 20 back-and-forth emails over the course of a week and be further away from closing business?

The difference between mediocrity and greatness is a small step that so few ever choose to take. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  How long are you going to languish in mediocrity before you decide to be great?

Bottom Line: Are you going to keep following the habits that lead to mediocrity, or are you willing to create a new behavior that will improve your sales and communication skills?

James Bahm has over 30 years’ experience in broadcasting, sales and marketing, and recruiting and hiring. He is the author of Don’t Yuck My Yum – a Professional Development and Sales & Marketing book – which is available on amazon.com.  He can be reached via email: [email protected].


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