The other day, a friend who works in sales told me an unbelievable story about her sales team.
On the morning of the last day of the month, her team had met less than 80% quota. By the end of the day, they had hit 105% quota.
What? I’m sure this is a common experience for the people reading this post, but as a non-salesperson, I was curious … how does that happen?
What type of team does it take to make that kind of jump in one day? What behavior makes for an effective salesperson, and by extension, a team of effective salespeople?
To answer this question, we studied some of the most effective salespeople in our company. Based on our observations, we came up with a list of habits that make them so good at what they do.
21 Habits of an Effective Salesperson
1) They set and stick to their ideal buyer persona.
A clearly defined buyer persona is crucial to an effective sales process. And a sales rep who sticks to that persona is effective in generating sales. Otherwise, a salesperson might fall back on spray-and-pray tactics that result in inefficient prospecting.
An effective rep researches the prospect to make sure they’re a good fit. They stick to their ideal buyer persona and know exactly whom they're selling to and why.
2) They prepare ahead of time.
An effective salesperson prepares before a call. That means they do research on their prospect and gather all the information before a big customer meeting.
Top reps don't wing it. They go in with a plan and a contingency plan. This way, they anticipate challenges or questions and prepare an effective response to avoid losing the sale.
3) Their lead generation process is measurable and repeatable.
A great process is broken down into measurable actions. By making each step measurable, a rep can pinpoint the weak points of their process and know exactly where to improve.
For example, let's say a salesperson can convert a large portion of their prospects into qualified leads and can pique their interest -- but has trouble closing the deal. By tracking each step along the way, the rep can narrow down the weak point. Is the sales pitch not convincing enough? Is the follow-up procedure ineffective? Could the salesperson be more enthusiastic on the close?
After analysis, the rep has specific actions to improve upon rather than just “sell better.”
An effective salesperson gets their process down to a science.
4) They know their product.
Being able to sell is half the battle. Knowing what’s being sold is the other half.
At HubSpot, our new sales hires go through a rigorous training process. Each salesperson builds a blog and website from scratch using the HubSpot tools. This helps them understand the pain points prospects might have when trying to build an audience and generate leads. They also learn how HubSpot can help buyers address these issues.
Through this training, they learn to empathize with their prospects.
5) They execute fact-based (not feelings-based) pipeline management.
Effective sales reps don’t let their feelings cloud their judgment. They are able to maintain emotional distance from their deals and avoid taking conflict or rejection personally. This allows them to manage a more accurate pipeline.
6) They constantly build personal relationships.
Effective salespeople know relationships are the cornerstone of sales. The best reps are constantly making new connections and keeping tabs on partnerships that could be mutually beneficial. Focusing on connections also expands their networks, yielding more potential referrals.
7) They think from the customer’s point of view.
Smart salespeople understand that to effectively sell, they shouldn't just think about the paycheck. In order to be successful, they ask themselves how they can help their prospects win. They become an ally for their prospects rather than salespeople. They think win-win.
Rather than asking, “How can I sell?” they ask, "How can I help?"
8) They don’t try.
Salespeople do or do not. There is no try (hat tip to Yoda). They don’t settle for just “trying” to sell. They know that “almost” doesn’t count, so they keep pushing forward until they get results.
9) They actually listen.
They seek to understand their prospects as much as possible, which they accomplish by actively listening and asking questions.
10) They get their eight hours of sleep every night.
Effective salespeople know their attitude toward other people will be affected if they don’t get enough sleep.
If they’re tired, it'll be harder to perform at their best. When they get enough sleep, they’re more energetic on calls and can enthusiastically present their products and services.
11) They believe in what they’re selling.
It’s easier to be passionate about -- and sell -- a product when you genuinely believe in it. The most effective salespeople actually use their product and believe in its value.
12) They’re purpose-driven.
Money can be a good driver, but purpose is an even more powerful motivator. A great sales rep understands that the product or service they’re selling has the power to positively affect people’s lives, and this knowledge gives them a deep sense of purpose.
However, money -- or more accurately, what money represents -- is also important. Money allows a salesperson to pay for their children’s education or take care of their parents or support a charity they believe in.
13) They follow up.
Many salespeople fail to effectively follow up after sending a proposal. They don’t even know if the prospect opened their email.
HubSpot Sales helps with this issue, letting salespeople know when and how often a prospect opened an email. With this information, they can follow up at the optimal time.
14) They personalize their message.
Instead of following a script and approaching each prospect with a “one size fits all” mentality, high-performing salespeople are committed to learning as much as they can about a prospect to tailor their message. These sales reps understand the unique pain points a prospect is facing and can connect the dots as to why their product specifically solves them.
15) They provide value.
Instead of sending pointless “just checking in" emails, effective salespeople provide value to their prospects each time they reach out. The best sales reps aim to teach their prospects something new with each email.
16) They don’t breeze through qualification.
While some prospects might look great on paper, salespeople who execute thorough research and take time to separate highly qualified prospects from bad fit buyers put themselves in a position to hit quota every month.
High-quality prospects usually are more loyal than those who don't benefit much -- or at all -- from the product. Not only do happy customers churn at a lower rate, they also generate positive word-of-mouth marketing and ultimately, referrals.
17) They have a plan.
You might be the most charismatic, influential person in the world, but without an organizational system, your sales efforts will suffer. The top reps are extremely organized: They plan what they'll do every day, which behaviors or parts of the process they'd like to improve upon, how they'll approach specific calls or accounts, and more. With a clear strategy in hand, they can execute quickly and purposefully.
18) They're willing to challenge their prospects.
Great salespeople know agreeing with their prospects on every point, veering away from tough topics or difficult questions, and bending over backward to meet their requests won't lead to closed deals. If reps want to help buyers improve their businesses, they need credibility. Being a yes-man or yes-woman won't earn you respect -- it'll only make your prospects think you're wishy-washy or inauthentic. Don't be afraid to probe into your prospects' answers and challenge them when they say something that doesn't add up.
19) They view their customer’s success as their own.
Salespeople don’t stop working as soon as the prospect signs on the dotted line. Instead, top reps touch base frequently with their customers to seek feedback and provide tactical suggestions.
20) They stay balanced.
Salespeople experience more highs and lows in a single week than most professionals do in an entire month. Some days, you feel invincible. Other days, you wonder if you even belong in sales.
The successful reps have learned to manage their emotions and stay somewhere in the middle. When things are going really well, and almost all of their deals are closing, they remind themselves not to get too cocky. When business dies down, they tell themselves not to become demoralized: Sales will pick up soon if they keep chugging.
21) They take a break.
In sales, activity is often correlated with results. The more emails you send, the more meetings you book. The more meetings you book, the more demos you set. The more demos you set, the more deals you close.
Following this line of thought, many salespeople end up working 10-hour days every weekday and even putting in time on the weekends.
Not only is this bad for your mental and physical health, it's also unproductive. As Basecamp founder and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson points out in this fantastic piece on workaholicism, some of the highest-achieving people in history -- like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Charles Dickens, and Charles Darwin -- prioritized sleep and a balanced schedule. Breaks are scientifically proven to boost memory, focus, and the quality of your ideas.
If you're regularly burning the candle at both ends, you'll eventually burn out. And plus, how much are you actually getting done between 6:30 and 8:30 at night? That time would be better spent reading, talking to your friends or family, watching TV or playing video games, cooking, walking your dog -- basically, anything that gives your brain a break.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.