Sales is hard — plain and simple. And whether you're selling Girl Scout Cookies or a comprehensive marketing service, success won’t come overnight. We’ve all heard it: “Just work hard and you’ll be successful.” OK, great, but what does that mean? Throughout my years of selling, I’ve identified three habits that every driven sales rep needs to adopt:
1. Wake up early.
I've never been much of a morning person (I'm a serial snooze-button hitter), and to be honest, I still don't jump out of bed every day. But I’ve read a lot of books for entrepreneurs about success, and they all say the same thing: Wake up early. So I introduced an earlier alarm into my life, and we've been frenemies ever since.
Here's the thing, though: Waking up early won't magically make you successful. It's more about what you do with that extra time that determines your success.
According to a 2012 profile in TIME magazine, Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 a.m. to check his email. Before we go any further, I'm not advising you wake up at 3:45 a.m. every morning. That seems more like cruel and unusual punishment. As the CEO of Apple, I imagine Cook is a pretty busy guy, so it (almost) makes sense that he would check his emails at 4 in the morning because he has more pressing matters to get to during regular business hours.
As sales reps, it's pretty typical for our days to be packed to the gills. Between back-to-back meetings and sales calls, we have little time to check other tasks off our to-do lists. Racing the sunrise every morning can boost productivity and help you address important items that would otherwise fall by the wayside — things that can determine your performance and position within a company.
2. Embrace block scheduling.
If you're anything like me, you have this insatiable need to check your email every five minutes. Whether you're waiting to hear back from an important lead or you're hoping a signed contract will land safely in your inbox, you're good friends with the refresh button.
But by constantly interrupting what you're working on to check email, you're not only creating unnecessary distractions, but you're also decreasing your ability to actually get anything of value done. That's why block scheduling could be your saving grace.
To give you an idea of what I mean, check out the visual below:
Personally, I like to block off time for emails, meetings, proposals/presentations, social media relations, and lead nurturing because these are tasks that I want to dedicate my full attention to. Setting aside time in this way keeps me zeroed in on the individual task and makes me more productive. This way, I'm not popping back and forth between my inbox and a half-completed proposal, losing valuable time and getting nothing done.
3. Invest in your personal brand through content.
When I'm scrolling through my social feeds, the people who stand out the most are the ones who regularly post engaging, relevant content that they've created. Having — and executing — a content strategy can do so much.
For example, our CEO, John Hall, wrote a piece for Inc. titled "The Most Meaningful Content Marketing Trends and How They Will Influence 2017." This piece accomplished three important goals: It positioned John as an expert in his industry who's well-versed enough that he can predict industry trends and shifts, it broke down barriers with potential clients by acknowledging (and offering solutions to) the problems readers experience, and it generated inbound leads for our marketing and sales teams.
For a sales professional, being seen as an expert is the golden ticket. Imagine you're in a room with 99 other sales reps and one prospective client. If you've been creating engaging content — consistently building your credibility to stay top of mind with your audience — the prospect will most likely choose to speak with you over the other 99 sales reps who haven't been investing in their personal brands.
We live in a world where consumers often do the majority of their research before even speaking with a sales rep. So if you can produce educational and valuable pieces of content and get them placed in publications your audience is reading, you'll be able to nurture leads through the sales process, establish yourself as a valuable resource, and even shorten the sales cycle with content.
As sales reps, we're constantly on the go — moving to the next meeting, the next outreach, and the next networking event. It can be hard to find a moment to focus on professional development, and it often takes a back seat to the numerous other items we have to fit into our day. But if you get started with these three areas first and truly dedicate yourself to making them happen, you'll see an overall improvement in your performance.