Habits Are Powerful!

by | May 24, 2014 | Psychology of Selling

Come with me on a typical sales call.  I like to start with small talk, but sometimes my client prefers to get right down to business.

Has something like this happened to you?  You habitually behave in a certain way, only to later realize your approach may not be connecting with the other person.

You think, “I’ll change my approach.”

Is that easy to do?  Not for most of us.

Your usual way is comfortable, and you can do it without much effort.

However, in reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I learned more about habits, scientifically, and how they impact every aspect of sales.

Charles Duhigg says that habits can be changed when we know how they work. Habits form because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. For example, you don’t think about driving your car, starting it, stepping on the gas or breaks – you just do it.  Your brain has formed a habit, as it saves effort.

How many times have you been thinking about a client or solution while driving, only to arrive at your destination without any conscious memory of how you got there?

The brain cannot tell the difference between a good habit and a bad one. Therefore habits are as much of a curse as they are a benefit, and habits merge without our permission. It’s one of the ways our brains become efficient with day to day activities.

Habits are a 3 step loop – a cue, a routine and a reward. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and cravings emerge. A routine can be physical, mental or emotional.

  • Cue:  Think about your first sales call.  Your cue is your introduction.
  • Routine:  The routine is how you lead the sales call.
  • Reward:  The reward is to earn the right for a second appointment.

And here’s the good news – a habit cannot be eradicated, it must be replaced.

To change a habit you must keep the old cue and the old reward but insert a new routine. Most sales training focuses on the routine, which is where it should be.  Yet, about 80% of what is “learned” in training is forgotten in the first month. Maybe more time spent on analyzing your current habits and routines will uncover an opening where the new routine can take hold.

Duhigg shares the story of his habit to eat a cookie every afternoon. “By analyzing my habit, I figured out that the reason I walked to the cafeteria each day wasn’t because I was craving a chocolate chip cookie. It was because I was craving socialization, the company of talking to my colleagues while munching. That was the habit’s real reward. And the cue for my behavior – the trigger that caused me to automatically stand up and wander to the cafeteria, was a certain time of day.

So, I reconstructed the habit: now, at about 3:30 each day, I absentmindedly stand up from my desk, look around for someone to talk with, and then gossip for about 10 minutes. I don’t even think about it at this point. It’s automatic. It’s a habit. I haven’t had a cookie in six months.”

He makes it seem simple when you understand how habits work.

In addition to analysis, you have to believe that change is possible. Focusing on progress helps you to believe in your new routine.  And then reward the cravings that drive your routine with rewards.

Here’s my brief synthesis of The Power of Habit:

  • Analyze and diagnose your routine.
  • Believe you can change the routine.
  • Reward the change.
  • See how a successful routine change can produce success in other areas of your life whether professional or personal.

Good selling!