In over 35 years of selling, I have learned many things the hard way, and I am not unique. The turning point for me in my sales career came from reading a book and being exposed to some sound thinking… about myself and how I sold.
And it wasn’t even a sales book that I read!
The book in question was ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen R. Covey. Published by Simon & Schuster. If you have not read it, I urge you to borrow or buy a copy and make it a ‘must read’. Every single principle can be applied to sales effectiveness as well as personal effectiveness.
Working with Franklin Covey over the past 7 years, first as a client and then as a consultant, I have seen evidence of these principles working to transform sales in a way that challenges many of the old ‘buyer vs seller’ conflicts.
My premise is this. Many of the things we do unconsciously, yet habitually, constantly express our character and drive our effectiveness or ineffectiveness in sales, as in life. So, our character as sales people is a composite of our habits.
Acquiring and applying the 7 Habits to sales effectiveness takes us through two key stages of development. Habits 1-3 take us from dependence to independence by taking responsibility for our own sales success. Once independent, we learn through habits 4-6 to succeed with other people, either on our sales team, or with customers and clients. The seventh habit makes all the others possible, by periodical and deliberate self-renewal.
Fortunately, for those of us not born as effective sales people (and let’s face it, nobody is) the 7 Habits can be learned.
Each of the 7 Habits is based on sound principles of effectiveness, paradigms aligned with those principles and practices that produce the most effective results, in this case effective sales results.
For all the 7 Habits, the Principles are universal, timeless and in existence, whether we understand or accept them, or not. Paradigms are our mental maps and orientation, the way we see, understand and interpret the world… and Practices are the way we carry out our paradigms – our behaviours.
Proactivity in a sales sense, means taking responsibility for your own sales results and your own effectiveness, and recognizing your responsibility to make things happen. It’s about choice, accountability, initiative, and resourcefulness.
The opposite to Proactive is Reactive. Reactive sales people are often affected by things going on around them, living in a way that is a function of their market or business conditions. You can get clues to whether sales people are proactive or reactive by listening to how they speak, for example.
“My sales target is unrealistic.” There’s nothing I can do about it. “That customer always makes me livid.” My emotions are outside of my control.
These are common paradigms. A highly effective paradigm could be expressed as “I am responsible for my own sales success.”
When you are proactive in sales, you take responsibility for achieving your targets, for growing your accounts, for finding new customers. It means you choose your behaviour based on principles, rather than your feelings or circumstances.
Top sales performers applying proactivity, are those who seize the initiative to do whatever is necessary, to get the job done.