Greek philosopher Aristotle was fond of saying “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event – it is a habit.” But when it comes to sales, not all selling habits are created equal.

And certainly not all habits lead to excellence.

Over the years, I’ve acquired, and subsequently ditched, the following 5 old-school selling habits. If you’re in sales, I’d strongly suggest you do the same.

#1. Pounding the phone

I can already hear the gasps of disapproval from the back row of sales pundits, but hear me out: if you’re still cold calling, you’re already on your way out.

Way back when, cold calling actually worked – and it did for me. I can directly attribute at least one six-figure deal to a series of strategically placed cold calls. Back in 2010.

Fast forward to today’s world, and it’s clear that cold calling simply doesn’t work anymore. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t use caller-ID. In fact, I know hardly anyone who answers their office phone anymore. And when they do, they certainly won’t take a meeting based on your carefully rehearsed call script.

In a world where the core focus of selling is moving from persuading to educating, cold calling has lost its place. But don’t take my word for it. Here are “16 Compelling Statistics That Prove Cold Calling Is Dead”.

 #2. Measuring “dumb” activity

“What gets measured, gets done”, dixit Tom Peters. He might as well have been talking about selling habits. Unfortunately, many organisations measure the wrong things. Meaning they are actively encouraging their people to continue to invest time, energy and scarce resources into the very things they should be trying to avoid.

What do I mean by “dumb” activity ? Tracking things like this:

  • Number of calls/meetings scheduled per week
  • Number of “touches” or emails sent
  • Number of deals in the pipeline
  • Number of “closeable” deals in the pipeline

I can think of a dozen ways in which you average seller can manipulate every single item on that list. I can also think of (at least) a dozen sales managers who insist on using these kinds of metrics.

Why ? Because it’s easy to measure them, and it’s hard to measure the kind of stuff that actually gets you results.

#3. Sending boilerplate, template emails

Few things give the sales profession a bad rep like armies of SDRs sending out template emails. Yes, I understand it can save time, and every once in a blue moon you might actually hit a deal. To me, this is the sales equivalent of destroying acres of lush rainforest just to raise a few more cows. If you factor in all the hidden costs, the yields are just not worth it.

If you’re doing outbound outreach, please take the time to do your research, and craft a well-written, personalised email.  Or get ready to be added to my spam-list.

Oh, and no – I don’t appreciate the “light hearted tone” of an off-topic email that’s supposed to be funny. If I want funny, I’ll go to YouTube to check out some Vines.

#4. Confusing “doing things” with “getting things done”

Here’s a hard lesson about selling habits I learned when I became an entrepreneur: no one cares how hard you work. All people care about is results and output.

You see, in corporate life, people who work hard (may) go places. Spending long hours in the office and appearing very busy is a great way to get noticed, and at least show up on the radar of some of the folks who might give you your next pay raise. (Granted, there usually have to be some results involved as well).

But as an entrepreneur, all that goes out the window. If you work for yourself, no one cares how much time you spend in the office. All people care about is what you produce. Same goes for independent sales agents, or commission-only reps.

So ask yourself: on any given day, how much time do you spend “doing things” versus “getting things done” ? How much of your time is spent filling out reports, doing admin, tracking expenses, … versus meeting with potential clients and prospects ?

#5. Thinking you know it all

As a consultant and trainer, I spend many days per year working with groups of people. And I can virtually predict who is a top-performer, and who isn’t based on how they act in a training room.

You see, top performers share something in common: they’re never done.

They realise that the world around them is always changing, and they need to change with it. So they never stop learning. Never close themselves off to a new perspective, or idea. And they always find something of value in a new approach. And when they do, they execute. Over time, they build selling habits that lead to dramatic results, sometimes single-handedly outselling everyone else.

Top performers absorb knowledge and new ideas like a sponge. They exhibit a growth mindset. They’re always looking for ways to take their game to the next level.

Average performers have a fixed mindset. They are closed off to new ideas, and believe “they already know this”, or “that won’t work around here”. They discard an idea or approach based on their subjective, personal opinion, not on how well it works. And they spend more time finding reasons why things won’t work, than explore why they would.

If you find yourself doing some (or all) of the things above, don’t feel bad. At some point, I’ve done them all.

But if excellence truly is a habit, then we owe it to ourselves to look very closely at our behaviour, and ask ourselves: “Are these the habits I want to create for myself ?”