Sales Detox: What Do You Need to Stop Doing?

A year ago my wife was on a mission to purge our house of clutter.

She read the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” by Marie Kondo. She took it to heart and tore into the basement, closets and anywhere else we happened to be storing non-essential stuff. For the next month, I would regularly come home to find “give-away” piles ready to be loaded into the back of my SUV and hauled off to the donation dock.

Eventually she involved the kids and me in this undertaking. We asked ourselves whether we really needed to keep things. If we weren’t using them or didn’t find sentimental value in them, they were either trashed or donated.

I have to admit her decluttering process made our lives easier. We’re not bogged down with useless “stuff.” We have room to breathe. It makes it easier to focus on more enjoyable or high-value things in our lives.

Tossing Out Bad Sales Habits

Just as the decluttering process can make your home life more efficient, it can do wonders for your professional life as well. The longer you have been working in sales, the more unnecessary stuff you have accumulated in your brain, on your calendar and in your job description. Sometimes that stuff needs to be purged.

Sales people are notorious for adding things to their plate without taking things off. Why? Salespeople tend to be ambitious and very confident in their abilities. They want multiple ways to prospect even if one prospecting method hasn’t paid off much in the past. They tend to be independent personalities, rugged individualists who think they can do it all. Sales professionals know they need to persevere in an eat-what-you-kill environment, so they don’t give up or accept defeat lightly.

Those are great traits, essential for long-term success in sales, but they are traits that can burn you out if you’re not careful.

Ask this question: “What do I need to stop doing?” Here are some places to start:

Blowing off leads // Fifty percent of sales leads never receive proper follow-up. That is probably the greatest waste of resources in the sales world. If you let leads fall through the cracks because you’re focusing on less important things, by all means, stop doing it.

Poor Qualification // Stop wasting time on people who will never buy. For whatever reason, many sales reps latch onto prospects who look good on the surface but will never buy.

Networking for the sake of networking // Some salespeople never miss an event. They are on umpteen boards and committees and are always running from one meeting to the next. Why? Prospecting! They are afraid they’ll miss out on their next dream client if they are not at every event. I’m a big proponent of prospecting through networking, but you must be efficient. If a time-chewing obligation is not regularly producing convertible leads, don’t trick yourself into believing you have to be there.

Cold Calling // Fewer than 1 percent of salespeople enjoy cold calling. And it’s for good reason. It takes a huge amount of time and it hardly ever works. Cold calling is just about the most inefficient way you can prospect, yet many salespeople still do it. Instead of cold calling, research prospects first. Soften them up with marketing activity. Use a combination of ways to reach them, always focusing on something they may value.

Lack of Focus // Stop wasting time on non-sales functions. Sales professionals are often drafted by upper management to serve on company-wide projects or task forces. This is especially true if you are a senior leader in the sales division. Sales people tend to have first-hand knowledge of customers and buying trends, so they are valuable contributors to these company-wide groups.

But be careful. I’ve seen sales professionals sucked into so much committee work that has nothing to do with sales that they have hardly any time left to sell. Sales is the lifeblood of the company; we need all sales hands on deck.

And the Big One . . .

The single most important thing to stop? Counter-productive thinking. No matter how successful you are, you probably cling to some negative ideas. Every sales rep is at least occasionally afflicted with self-doubt. Whatever negative things you harbor in the deep recesses of your brain, now is the time to perform a decluttering miracle on them.

Declutter your sales career and liberate yourself. Let go of the things you need to stop doing and enjoy the results.