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7 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Professionals
By Drew Stevens

Even before the tragedy of September 11 the United States economy
was beginning to take a nose dive. Clearly since the attacks,
customers are revisiting everything from budgets to personnel to
company parties and benefits. The times we are living in are new
to us but should not be especially new to experienced sales

In my many years of training and consulting many sales
professionals will ask me about how to get over a slump. And,
many sales managers ask me how to tell good sales people from

I believe in the 80/20 rule. My clients tell me that 20 percent
of their sales professionals are getting 80 percent of the
business. And, when I survey sales people they are concerned that
they are not getting their share of business. They want more and
are perplexed about what separates the good from the high

We all strive to be the best. Sales managers clearly want the
best and CEO’s clamor it. So what then is the correct formula for
bringing in more business?

In 18 years of sales experience and training I have narrowed it
down to something I call 7 Habits of Highly Effective Sales

1. Customer Knowledge One of the many pet peeves that sales
managers have with their sales professionals is a person that
lacks understanding of their client. In today’s very fast and
competitive world a sales professional must understand who their
client is.

Recently, I watched a review a sales professional’s performance
for the past year. When the sales manager queried the person
about specific account information, the sales person became
flustered. Unfortunately, other than saying the client is a
multinational pharmaceutical company, the sales person knew
little else.

The customer requests that you understand their business. A
client is looking for solutions to business issues and they are
looking to you as the sales person and account person to have the
answers. Without understanding the client how can you understand
how you might help them?

You are probably asking yourself, must I need to do in order to
understand the client. First you must get a copy of the annual
report. Read the information to determine what type of products
the client is developing. Understand the competitive landscape
and how your product or service can thwart competition. Learn
about the competitors for new business opportunities. 

When you obtain the report, read the president’s message, the
financial information and lines of business, Try to understand
where your products fit within the organization’s umbrella.
Finally, look at the firm’s WEB site and review it for updates to
the annual report, look for business climate changes. And, look
for the anomalies in business so that your product or service can
resolve the issues.

Second, read the newspapers and press releases for the most
current customer information. Determine from your readings how
your service or product can assist your customer during good
times and bad. 

Third, it is imperative to use the most widely accessible
resource at your fingertips-the Internet. There are voluminous
resources available such as,, and And the
numerous portals such as Excite and Yahoo are constantly
providing real time business content. Review any of these sites
to gain quick and up to the moment access on your customers. 

The sales person that does their homework and studies the
customer and the changing landscape will learn how to quickly
adapt to market conditions by finding solutions to customer
issues. By becoming one with the customer and understanding their
respective business you become a reliable business partner for
today, tomorrow and well into the foreseeable future.

2. Questioning Aptitude You get home in the evening, you are
ready to sit down to a hot, cozy and comfortable dinner and the
telephone rings. Don’t you hate that! Feeling obliged you pick up
the telephone only to hear a sales person hawking a product or
service. They talk and talk and talk. The person reads from a
script and does not ask us one question. He or she does not
qualify the opportunity. Moreover, he or she speaks so much that
we quickly become disturbed and terminate the call.

The best sales professionals learn to engage their audience. The
first task of the sales professional during an appointment
whether direct, telephone or cold, must be to question the
customer. Questions are a sales rule. Questions assist in
uncovering useful information such as buyer behavior, decision
criteria, budgets, time frame, competition, etc. These are issues
they typically are not presented by the customer so it is
imperative for a sales professional to ask them.

Most important, questions asked by sales professional must be
open ended. A question such as “Do you have a budget for this
project?” will give you a “yes” or “no” response. I mentioned
that the purpose of questioning is to engage the customer in
conversation. An effective sales professional will ask the
customer an open ended question such as, “If you had a budget for
this product what might it look like and when might you decide to
make a purchase?” The revision entitles the client to think
through the possibility of using this product and requesting
purchase money. By revising the question, the client provides
more information and sets the stage for the effective sales
professional to ask more qualifying questions and perhaps
uncovering any and all sales objections.

Finally, the sales person is able to discover more about the next
habit, uncovering the wants and needs of the buyer.

3. Interpretation of Consumer Wants and Needs There are several
paths and processes to follow during a sales presentation;
however the most important one understands buyer’s wants and
needs. In order to sell anything to anyone, an effective sales
professional most question the customer to understand why they
want or why they might need the product.

Many of my clients tell me that they have exuberant sales forces,
yet they are not effective in closing business. With analysis we
discover that representatives are excited but they are so busy
telling about product that they fail to ask questions. This
communication breakdown takes the focus not only off of the
customer but off the customer wants and needs. Without uncovering
need, what can you possibly sell?

The solution here is to ask so many open ended questions, that
your presentations become conversational. This will take some
time but once you master the art of solid questioning, you can
then formulate questions that hone in on wants and needs. When
you do this you will notice your sales increase.

One final word on wants and needs- customers will also purchase
from you for personal and/or professional reasons. Remember to
ask yourself, what is in it for the customer? Are they looking
for job recognition, cost effectiveness, or perhaps personal
happiness with your product? As you progress with your line of
questions, try to uncover what I call the “Truth of Purchase.”

4. Ability to establish client rapport Without question, building
a relationship with your customer is vital. People want to have
relationships with people. They won’t buy large quantities of
product from the Internet because they want to trust a live human
being. If you have good relationships with clients, you will be
able to sell to them five, ten, and 15 years down the road. Think
of a client relationship as a lifetime investment. This portion
of the process fits in with my earlier thoughts of becoming a
consultant not just a sales professional.

5. Uncanny ability to ride the Sales Roller coaster Sales are
volatile process. One day is favorable, the next sullen, the next
euphoric and so on. Each day brings a new experience and new
challenge and a new adventure. In order to be an effective sales
professional one must be flexible, and adaptable to change. Each
opportunity, call and presentation brings a new question or
perhaps education.

For years, I tell my clients to become a chameleon and adjust to
the changing topology. You must because the instant you become
frustrated the customers see this. Think of the customer as a
mirror-they will mimic your behavior. If you are happy, they will
be, you are sad they are too. 

Since my first days on the job I have carried a small pocket
mirror to every sales appointment. I look at the mirror prior to
my call, I ensure myself that I am either happy or neutral. I
look for my facial expressions and if possible body posture. By
instilling a positive attitude and a neutral posture, I enable
customers to feel at ease and do not allow them to understand
some of the personal and professional trials and tribulations. I
focus on them, their wants and needs and their contentment with
my product and personal service.

6. Understands the Know’s Principle The customer; the prospect;
the product; the topic you are going to speak about when you meet
with the prospect or client; the competitors, the marketplace and
the issues that surround them; the questions you want to ask; the
possible objections; the closing technique; the hot buttons
factors which allow the client to say yes to you; and finally,
your own limitations. You must know what you can and cannot
commit to. Never lie, never cheat and never ever over-commit. In
order to succeed your must KNOW how far you can go, based on how
much you KNOW about your product and customer. If you never KNOW,
the only sound you will ever here is NO!

7. Honest and Enthusiastic Love what you do, love the product you
are selling and love the people you sell with. If you don’t, then
get out. If you don’t like what you sell, prospects will read
right through you and think, “Why should I buy from someone who
is not passionate about what they say or do?” Your energy and
enthusiasm come through on each and every call, if you are
dispassionate, you will not ask the right questions, you will not
read the buying signs, hear objections and importantly will not
make any money.

What you can do today to improve! Commit to your boss, to your
job, and to being the best you can be. Identify with the client,
determine their wants and needs and then develop a plan to help
them. If you do this, the client will trust you now and forever!
Also, commit to everlasting improvement for yourself—set bigger
and better goals, think of new ways to deliver better customer
service, determine how to augment daily challenges. 

About the Author NSA Chapter Member of the Year! Drew Stevens is
all about results! Drew works with organizations that want to
realize finish line results by working to increase profits and
productivity. His easy to remember ideas such as ABLE, BE ALERT
and C4 create immediate results for you!. Drew speaks and
consults internationally and he is frequently called upon by the
media for his expertise. To obtain instant results call 877-391-
6821 or email Drew: 

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