10 bad habits that make sales reps less productive

by Ramin Assemi
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“One difference between the Top 10% and the Top 1% is the very top are extremely efficient with their time.” — Jason Lemkin, SaaStr

Ever struggle to turn inspiration into action?

Think about the last time you felt inspired after meeting with your manager, listening to a presentation at a conference, listening to a sales podcast or watching a motivational video on YouTube or Facebook. Whatever the catalyst, the inspiration rushed into your body and the adrenaline started pumping.

What happened next?

In all likelihood, you grabbed a cup of caffeine, put in some headphones and felt ready to seize the day. Maybe you picked up the phone and called a prospect, opened your sales CRM and followed up with a lead or even began prospecting on LinkedIn.

Your productivity was at an all-time high.

But that burst of productivity was likely short-lived. The next day, things went back to normal and you spent more time browsing Facebook and talking about sports than you did talking to leads.

Why?

Because the truth is most sales professionals struggle with productivity.

Nowhere is this struggle more real than in an industry where you’re frequently told “no,” hung up on or just plain ignored, even when you’re genuinely trying to help. I’ve spoken with tons of sales executives, managers and entrepreneurs who point to a lack of productivity as the reason their sales reps are struggling. And that’s why I’ve put together this list of bad habits that sales reps should avoid at all costs. Nix these habits, and I bet you’ll reclaim some of that lost productivity. 

(Staying productive is even easier with the right sales tools. Try Close.io for freeno credit card required.) 

1. Letting others control your calendar

Time is a terrible thing to waste.

Unfortunately, that’s not a statement everyone in sales would actually agree with. In your career, you’re going to meet a lot of people who like to waste time. (Because, let’s face it—some days, wasting time sounds a lot more appealing than making cold calls. If it then takes you 16 clicks to log each call, like the inside sales team of Foursquare used to before moving over to Close.io, that makes things even worse.)

If you cherish your time, you want to ensure that your time is spent doing the things that matter most to you.

That means taking control of your calendar. Don’t be afraid to tell a colleague that you can’t meet right before a call. Don’t be afraid to tell a prospect that the time they proposed won’t work. Take control of your calendar to increase your ability to deliver.

2. Procrastinating on your to-do list

One of the most effective ways to stay on task is to keep track of the things you want to accomplish each day. But many sales reps put off their to-do lists until the last few hours of the day and attempt to cram everything into one quick burst.

Instead of procrastinating on your to-do list, tackle the hardest tasks on your list as soon as your workday starts. Using this approach, you’ll have a big win under your belt early and won’t be able to call the workday a waste.

3. Overthinking your relationships

Thinking about where you stand in a relationship with a prospect is a good thing. Thinking about the psychology of how you approach a lead that has gone cold is a good thing. But obsessing over these little details for hours upon hours will do nothing but drive you crazy.

Relationships are complex—so complex that you could spend months analyzing and thinking about every word, email, intro and demo. A great way to mediate this bad habit is to focus on the things you can do today. Don’t spend countless hours wondering if things could have gone differently; take steps today that will help you get closer to your goal.  

4. Saying “yes” to everything

As our own Steli Efti once put it: Yes” is lazy. Learn to say “no.”

I know it’s tough, because in sales, we like to please people.

We like to make clients, prospects, leads and our managers happy. But sometimes trying to make everyone happy ends up causing more problems and stress and reducing our productivity as a result. Sales reps too often say “yes” to everything and end up overcommitting to features, timelines, new projects and meeting requests.

The obsession with “yes” needs to stop.

Learn to love the NO.

5. Waiting for inspiration to find you

The sales reps who sit back and wait for the “right moment” or refuse to get moving until they “get in the zone” are the sales reps who struggle to break into the top 10%. Rather than sit around and wait for inspiration (which rarely strikes out of the blue—you have to go looking for it), the best sales reps have a process in place that requires action, whether or not they’re “feeling it” right then.

We’ve baked that right into our sales software. With Inbox, you have a unified workspace for all your sales-related activities, so you’ll never have to wonder “What should I do next?”

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How do you start your morning? How do you make sure you’re on the right track? How do you monitor your own output over the course of the week?

If you don't have an answer for these questions, you’re likely winging it. And the best sales reps don’t wing it. Instead, they have a work routine they can rely on to start the day productively and end the day knowing they did everything possible to make the day count.

6. Letting emails and texts disrupt your flow

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzzzzz.

That’s the sound of your phone vibrating in your pocket. Do you reach for it in the middle of writing an email to a prospect—or do you ignore it?

Most sales reps reach for the phone.

We’re living in a world where distractions are all around us. Instead of allowing distractions to steer us off track, take control of your devices and turn off notifications during periods of execution. If you’re working on a proposal for a new client, don’t toggle between the proposal, your inbox, Slack, and Skype. Be present. Be committed to finalizing this single task and then check to see who called or texted you.

7. Surfing the web for distractions

In the same way that our devices make distractions only an arm’s length away, our browsers make distractions a single tab away. It’s not easy to stay focused when you can check Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube or Facebook within seconds. But it’s important to recognize that a “one-minute break” can quickly turn into 20 minutes of cat videos, tasty recipes, and mindless scrolling.

Make time for distractions, but don’t let them interrupt your work. If you really need a break from your work, make sure your distraction time is structured. Block off time on your calendar and get back to work as soon as it’s over.

8. Multi-tasking during calls and meetings

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the various tasks and communication touchpoints your prospects and leads require. You may get so busy that you begin taking other work into meetings and calls rather than being present for the discussion. Hate to break it to you, but it’s been scientifically proven that multi-tasking is actually a myth. You can’t do it. When you think you’re multi-tasking, you’re actually just swapping between the different tasks and not giving any of them your best.

Avoid this trap. Even if it feels like you’re being more productive, recognize that you’re actually doing a disservice to those around you by not giving your full attention to the meeting.

9. Taking rejection personally

As a sales rep, you’re going to be told “no.” You might even be told to never call a certain prospect or lead again. It’s all a part of the game.

But you can’t take it personally.

If you take rejection personally, you will derail your productivity by focusing on something that is no longer relevant. Your attention and energy are better spent focusing directly on things that will impact your goals.

10. Starting from scratch with every email

Sales reps have to send a lot of emails.

Email is one of the most effective methods of B2B communication. If you’re doing inside sales, the number of emails you send each day might be in the hundreds or even thousands.

But you don’t have to do it all by scratch. With CRM and sales tools like Close.io, you can write an email once and use it over and over again when reaching out to prospects or leads. You can save these emails for future use and even personalize them using variables like company name, contact name and more.

Don’t make the mistake of writing every email from scratch. Leverage technology to make your life easier and your days more productive!

What other bad habits are missing?

Can you think of any other bad habits sales reps have embraced but need to shake? I’d love to hear them in the comments so we can help more sales professionals be productive in their day-to-day.

Increase your productivity with the inside sales CRM designed for salespeople by salespeople. No manual data entry. Just pure results.

Yes, I want to try Close.io for free!

Recommended reading:

How to optimize your sales productivity and workflow
Guilty of one or more of the 10 habits above? Here are six ways to improve your sales productivity and workflow.

Crush your goals with this 5-task to-do list
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