Successful Sales Leader Habits

Habits, the process in which the brain “converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine” (Duhigg, 2012), help define the rational behind our personal and professional actions. At the core of every habit exists a loop consisting of a cue, routine, and reward that can be altered, removed, or added (Smith and Bolam, 1990). The consequences of introducing a new habit or making a change to an existing one can be significant and powerful enough to cause a chain reactions with intended and unintended consequences.

Across the sales organization, habits play a crucial role. They help determine, for example, how an account executive prepares to overcome the obstacles that arise when attempting to penetrate a large account. Habits dictate how he or she will respond to a prospects objections over price or limited budget. Habits dictate how a manager will schedule their day, including what prospects they visit, and how much time they spend coaching reps. In sum, habits can dictate selling success.

The strength of a sales organization’s leadership, particularly the Sales VP and regional managers, impacts the production of the sales force. It’s a simple concept that influences the most vital aspect of any business – revenue generation and profit. Knowing that habits directly influence selling behavior and managerial style, we asked the most successful VP Sales how they spend their time and what they focus on to ensure they are meeting or exceeding the company’s sales plan.

Here are the habits of successful sales leaders:

1. Focusing on this Quarter’s Number
– developing strategic deals, supporting the team and holding them accountable, monitoring the funnel, watching key metrics and making adjustments on the fly that secure the quarter. This consumes somewhere between 70-80% of the top VP’s time.

2. Team Communications
– speaking with all the reps, managers and support staff, on a regular basis to ensure expectations, goals and priorities are clearly understood, everyone is aware of relevant company initiatives and market trends, and the team is highly motivated and working together to achieve the targets.

3. Organizational Development
– looking at the forecast for the next Q and the current FY, assessing customer, market and competitive trends, planning what needs to happen to ensure future achievement, assessing the performance of the force and individual team members, identifying new programs for improving the overall performance, and executing the hiring plan.

4. Accountable
– holding themselves accountable for the performance of their teams, as well as holding individual team members accountable. Providing praise and acknowledgment to those reps and mangers who not only hit their sales targets but exceed them, accepting responsibility when strategic accounts are lost, targets missed, or poor hires are made.

5.  Eliminating Obstacles
– continually identifying, focusing on, and providing solutions to obstacles that impede selling success while embracing those solutions that arise organically. Altering team structure, incentives, and selling strategies as the market evolves.

The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg, 2012
The Neural Network of the Basal Ganglia as Revealed by the Study of Synaptic Connections of Identified Neurones, A. David Smith & J. Paul Bolam, 1990


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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