We’ve probably all either worked alongside or even been the client of a truly exceptional salesperson. Many people put what they do and how they do it down to some unique quirk of nature. Many pass it off as simply saying they were born with the ‘gift of the gab’. But I’m not sure that’s true.

I’ve worked alongside many exceptional salespeople and they are all very different personalities – some are even highly introverted – but they all share some very common daily habits which make them successful.

Through observing and coaching these outstanding salespeople, I thought it might be useful to share some of the ‘secrets’ from these observations, so you can start to build their habits into your day-to-day sales routine.

Plan your day early.
I remember one of my very first sales directors back in the late 90s taking me under her wing and saying to me, “Do you know what I’m doing when I’m walking my dog every morning at 6am? I’m planning the day ahead, thinking about new opportunities and client follow-ups, that way within the working day, no time is wasted.” Now you don’t have to get a dog, but get your day organised before you arrive at work and your productivity will soar.

Make time for prospecting.
This is simple, and yes, it’s effective. Thirty minutes a day is plenty, because when you have an established base of regular clients and they are actively spending with you, that’s when your pipeline is most at danger. It may seem counter-intuitive but it’s true. Because if you just farm your existing clients, at some point it is likely the work or revenue will dry up. This may well then put you into panic mode as you try to gain new customers in a hurry. So, take time every day to plan who you want as customers, start the early parts of researching and then – most importantly – contact them. Making this a routine takes a lot of the fear away, as in time it just becomes part of what you do.

Learn your ABC – Always Be Curious.
Great salespeople listen, and ask great questions to find out more. Not just questions to try and find a problem that their solution can solve; they ask more rounded questions about the other person and their business. They genuinely want to know how things are and if they or their network can help their customer or prospect with these issues. They have a natural thirst to learn and discover more about their customers. Every day, they are curious.

They know who they want to talk to most.
This is more than just an organisation you desire to have as a client. You can’t actually converse with Mr Microsoft or Mrs Spark. Understand the clients you want to work with, of course – but beyond that, know who the people within that organisation are that you need to build a relationship with. Do they have organisational power or influence? If not, find out who does.

Share things of interest.
One of my early sales mentors used to photocopy stories of interest and post them to his clients, with a short handwritten memo. It was something I copied, very quickly. It was amazing how quickly this built trust and meant that clients looked forward to your calls, rather than dreaded them. These days it’s much easier to share stories online, but the key is to still make them relevant and helpful to your client. So do your research and ask great questions to understand what is actually important in their world.

Make your client’s success your priority.
I remember chatting to a top product salesperson many years ago, and she said one of the best statements I’ve ever heard. “I really don’t want to work with unsuccessful or struggling clients. I mean, if they aren’t doing well, and if our product or our help and advice can’t help them become successful, then really what’s the point? We’re just taking their money for no good reason, and you can’t build a business on that.” So true, so eloquent and it was hardwired into her DNA. So, start to think about how you can help your clients become more successful.

Follow up promptly, and I mean promptly.
Recently I had a meeting with the MD of a major NZ engineering firm. On leaving the meeting, just as I was exiting the car park, my phone buzzed and the follow-up note had arrived in my inbox. The speed of the follow-up blew me away and was impressive.

Make your follow-up notes collaborative.
One of the most simple and successful tools I share with my clients is what we call Confirm & Clarify (CC) notes. In sending a post-meeting or post-call follow-up, we bullet point the main area discussed, with the next steps as agreed in the meeting below that. However, the main twist we give is starting the note with something like, “Below is a summary of what we discussed and the next steps. Please let me know if I’ve misheard or misunderstood anything, or if you have anything further to add?” It’s simple, it engages the other person to participate and maintain the conversation, and it’s not only good manners, but it demonstrates your reliability.

They never cut and paste the company spiel.
Only this week I received one of the worst prospecting emails imaginable. “Hello (insert name) I want to set up a call with our Director, to discuss these awesome things our product does…” Next came the long list of technical features and wizardry that meant nothing to me at all. So, clearly I won’t be taking that call. There was absolutely no indication whatsoever that they had any idea who I was or what I do.

Great salespeople make targeted calls that engage the other person and get them talking. Or they email something they have thought about that is tailored differently to every client and prospect, and most likely doesn’t mention their own product. They offer value through help or shared insights, which means you want to meet or engage with them further.

If I was to summarise these main habits there are two key areas to focus on: 1) Organise your day. Have time set aside for key sales tasks. 2) Think client first; your product or service second.

Ben Paul is a coach, facilitator and mentor, and the director of The Business of Trust New Zealand.

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