Bad Habits

3 min read

Bad Habits

Jonathan Fitchew of graduate training and recruitment company Pareto Law looks at the top seven deadly habits we need to look out for and how we can avoid or correct them.

Over the last 10 years sales has become firmly established as respected career with professional standards and a proven path to senior management along with finance and operations. Standards of training and professionalism continue to improve and yet we are all capable of falling into bad habits.

1. Short Termism

Too often we don't consider the long-term value of a customer. Profitable relationships, built up over years, can be lost because of one hasty decision or a complaint poorly handled. Not only do you lose that customer for life but they will create a negative network that loses you a whole host of new prospects and you are left wondering why. Think about not just the current sale but how much that customer is worth over the five or ten years you may be

a whole host of new prospects and you are left wondering why. Think about not just the current sale but how much that customer is worth over the five or ten years you may be doing business with them.


2. Bloodhounding

This is where we take a call. The guy says he's interested, so we get in the car and drive to Penzance. We drop everything and follow the latest scent like the bloodhound. We neglect the business we currently have on our plate and jeopardise real customers for the sake of an unknown quantity. This shows a lack of structure and a need for training in planning and time management. The old adage applies “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”


3. Over Promising

Good sales people under-sell by lowering a customer's expectations and then either meet or exceed them. Customers respect the conservative approach and will conclude that you know your business and that you are being realistic. Far better to win the sale based on achievable objectives than to over-sell and under-deliver. Account management training is essential, especially in the early days when enthusiasm can sometime over ride good business sense


4. Phonophobia

When you get into sales you know you will have to cope with rejection on the phone. So you have two choices: use the training to overcome rejection and see it as a challenge or give up and change career. It is vital at the interview stage to filter out those people, who will never be able to cope with rejection. Some people interview well but fall apart when it comes to rejection. Look out for people who have had lots of sales jobs in short space of time. Cold calling training with simple techniques will massively improve your success rate on the phone, if you apply them. One example that works for me on a first intro call is: using “could I speak to…” instead of “can I”, saying “thank you” rather than “please” and saying your own name twice. The mix of deference and assertiveness will help you past the gatekeeper.


5. Over informing

The suspect calls and you reply with a 20-page proposal and put it in your pipeline. You have avoided the issue of finding out whether the caller is serious by putting a weighting factor on the suspect. In the graduate recruitment business we make sure that our sales people always weight the opportunity by scoring them according to a number of factors: Do they employ sales people already? Are they growing? Do they understand our proposition? Do they have a timescale?


6. Non-referring

Some sales people just will not ask for a referral and yet it should be the easiest “ask” of all. Why? Because it doesn't cost them anything. Networking is the most powerful source of new business, so always ask the customer for a referral and don't be put off by the answer that they want to try out the service before referring you. The best time to ask for referral is early on. In a business-social setting the ability to network is essential if the event is to be anything more than death by finger-buffet. We actually run a course in how to “work the room.” By studying body language you can learn how some people seem to be able to move with ease around a room, remembering everyone's name and coming away with a fistful of referrals.


7 Ostriching

When a deal goes pear-shaped you can either run and hide - in which case it will get worse and be a thorn in your side for years to come - or you can front it up and deal with it. Over the years I have often found that my worst customers often become my best. Why? Because you take the complaint seriously, escalate it to senior management. The client then sees all these senior guys crawling over his company and he knows you are serious. He forgets about the original issue and just remembers the attention level he got. He will then recommend you to others. If you do this the worst that can happen is that you will lose the sale…but you had lost the sale anyway so it's all to gain.


Jonathan Fitchew is joint managing director of Pareto Law, a firm specialising in graduate recruitment and sales training and winner of the Sunday Times Best Small Company to Work For.