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5 habits of highly effective salespeople

Bruce Lund, Ph.D.

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Close the deal 80 percent of the time with consistent selling systems and disciplined follow-up processes. Borrowing language from Steven Covey, Lund breaks down the successful habits as they relate to salespeople. Each habit shared will also have specific exercises to follow to help you accelerate your personal growth.

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Over the past decade, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching top producers all over the world from all walks of life—first as a business professor, then as vice president of a training business, and now as an entrepreneur who directs my own coaching program. After both writing a dissertation on human performance and coaching thousands, we’ve established five habits of highly effective salespeople that we will cover together. We borrow Stephen Covey’s language in teaching the whole salesperson today, step-by-step, with exercises after each of the five concepts. These are the same principles I’ve used over the past year to grow my own business in Denver without knowing a single person in my sales target markets.

These behaviors and habits are highly effective for the younger, newer financial services advisor, but they also serve as a reminder for seasoned producers with potential missing structures in your own business. We believe training is engaging in consistent, ongoing behaviors that allow us to do something tomorrow that we cannot do as efficiently today. Each of the five habits will have specific systems attached with them to go out and implement right away. We believe these five habits can be the “2.2 millimeters of change” in your sales, service, and mind-set to help drive results. No great plastic surgeon ever makes more than 2.2 millimeters of change on someone, and he or she never make more than seven changes. We want to be that 2.2 millimeters of change today.

Whole Salesperson Overview

1. Explanation of Services

We believe having something to say is just as important as having somebody to say it to. You can have all the leads in the world, but if you can’t articulate what it is you do in the very first conversation, then you are on the case from the beginning. Most advisors position themselves as a commodity in the first conversation.

Today we will help you get a working explanation of services by better explaining:

  • What you believe
  • Why you believe it
  • What you do
  • How you do it differently
  • Who you’ve done it for
  • How to ask for the business or a call-to-action in the very first conversation

Exercise: Work through establishing your sales why through a 7- to 10-word belief statement based on what you believe and why you believe it, and then what you do as a result of those beliefs as a financial advisor.

2. Lead Generation Selling System

Over 90 percent of salespeople don’t have a consistent selling system tied to lead generation. Learn over a dozen strategies to get your phone to ring with incoming demand based on primary and secondary selling categories. Our selling system is tied directly to our explanation of services, follow-up system, unique customer experience, and person-of-influence activities learned throughout this presentation.

Exercise: Identify your top three customer acquisition strategies that are tied to a high-value activity system through income-producing activities.

3. Disciplined, Follow-Up System

Most salespeople do one to two weak attempts in the follow-up process. We teach a 10-touch, follow-up process that drastically increases close ratio and the amount of time it takes to close. We believe every follow-up should provide “a touch with value.” If you believe in your services, then you must be willing to fight to earn their business.

Exercise: Implement two or three of our follow-up touches into your current process as a “touch with value” to close more business quicker.

4. Unique Customer Experience

Too many salespeople are windshield shoppers, meaning once they sign someone up for their services, they are on to the next deal. We teach a 90-day onboarding process to turn a new client into a promoter into an advocate who feeds us 5.7 additional deals. Learn how to cultivate a top 25 advocate system that drives massive referrals of people with whom you want to do business.

Exercise: Define what unique customer experience  is to you and your business. How are you asking for more business throughout your unique customer experience to drive more qualified leads?

5. Entrepreneurial Mind-set

Many people get into sales because of the autonomy. The reality is that the most successful salespeople in the world are also the most disciplined. This starts with the mindset that you are an entrepreneur who needs to have consistent systems, discipline, and routines. This also means that you have a personal brand. It’s your duty to get more attention for your business and to elevate your status in the market as a person of influence.

Exercise introduction: Take our entrepreneur evaluation to measure your current person-of-influence score through the 10 ingredients of a person of influence.

For the following exercise, take a sheet of paper and copy the five habits of highly effective salespeople below. Then fill in the blanks.

  1. Sales (fill in the blank): _____________________________________________
  2. Sales (fill in the blank): _____________________________________________
  3. Sales (fill in the blank): _____________________________________________
  4. Service (fill in the blank): ____________________________________________
  5. Mind-set (fill in the blank): _____________________________________________

Habit #1 (Explanation of Services)

The number one question we get asked in this world as salespeople is “What do you do for a living?” Most people commoditize themselves without even realizing it by literally saying what it is they do, “I’m a financial advisor.” When you answer this way, you have no clear differential advantage because that person probably knows dozens of people who work in your profession. If you study the “croc brain,” if information that comes in isn’t new, novel, or different, then the front part of the brain tries to get rid of it. Remember, having something to say is just as important as having somebody to say it to. We buy into Tom Love’s explanation of services concept tied to Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” mentality.

Most people have never done the heavy lifting required to really figure out what they believe and why they believe it when it comes to their business. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. We help people differentiate within the first minute of a conversation by having something to say. This helps them attract the right business in the first conversation based on shared beliefs and repel the wrong business with those who don’t fit your opportunity filter. Warm shoppers use the first person they talk to 67 percent of the time.

For the following exercise, take a sheet of paper and copy the six components of a great explanation of services below. Then fill in the blanks.

EOS PART I (fill in the blank): ________________________________________________

EOS PART II (fill in the blank): ________________________________________________

EOS PART III (fill in the blank): _______________________________________________

EOS PART IV (fill in the blank): _______________________________________________

EOS PART V (fill in the blank): ________________________________________________

EOS PART VI (fill in the blank): _______________________________________________

Explanation of services exercise: Establish your sales why through a 7- to 10-word belief statement based on what you believe and why you believe it, and then what you do as a result of those beliefs as a financial advisor.

Habit #2 (Lead Generation Selling System)

Sales is a game of probability. Most salespeople do not have a consistent, disciplined selling system that attacks lead generation. The number one challenge cited by sales professionals is prospecting—especially for new hires in the sales onboarding process.

Work through the following terms as they are discussed:

What is a Lead Generation selling system?

Primary Categories:

  • Help list: Who goes on your help list?
  • Fight club: When does someone move to your fight club?
  • Advocates: What makes a person an advocate for your business?
  • Promoters: How do we define a promoter?
  • New clients: How do we define a new client?

Secondary Categories:

  • Someday: Define what a someday person is.
  • Connectors: Why are connectors so important to growing your business?
  • Climbers: Why do climbers have such high earning potential?
  • Showcase: List examples of showcase events you can use in your business.
  • Nextpert: What is a Nextpert (hint: spend time with talent)
  • Database: Where do you keep the majority of your database? How do you touch them?

The Five Daily Lead Generation Asks:

  • Referrals/connectors from advocates
  • Referrals/connectors from promoters
  • Referral/connectors from new clients
  • Ask for meetings with new leads (help list)
  • Ask to close business with follow-up pipeline (fight club)

Lead Generation Selling System Weekly Benchmarks: (Copy the categories below and fill in the blanks.)

  • Help list per week = _________________
  • Fight club per week = _________________
  • Advocates per week = _________________
  • Promoters per week = _________________
  • New clients per week = _________________
  • Someday people per week = _________________
  • Connectors per week = ________________
  • Climbers per week = __________________
  • Nextpert per week = _________________
  • Showcase per week = _________________
  • Database per week = _________________

Conclusion: All of our lead generation categories are tied to high-value activities that are either income-producing activities (IPAs) or person-of-influence activities (POIs) where you ask yourself, What is the highest use of my time and energy right now to generate business?

Lead Generation Selling System exercise: What are your top three customer acquisition strategies that are tied to a high-value activity system through income-producing activities or person-of-influence activities?

Habit #3 (Follow-Up System)

Once we move people from our help list (must give our explanation of services and qualify them as a people we would like to do business with), then we move them to our fight club. Most people do not have a disciplined follow-up system. It takes 7 to 15 touches to close a deal 80 percent of the time.

When you move people from suspects (help list) to prospects (fight club), you are then declaring that you want to earn their business. Remember, these people are going to do business with someone, so it might as well be you. Have the confidence in your services and don’t be afraid to follow up and earn their business. We live in a busy world, so staying top of mind through creative strategies is a must. The purpose of the follow-up is to move the needle and to rekindle the initial first meeting rapport. We define every touch in our system as “a touch with value.”

10-Touch System: Touch #1: Email

  • Send meeting summary to ensure you are on the same page.
  • Express excitement following the face-to-face meeting (or phone call).
  • Highlight two to three areas (buzzwords) that you know you can help them in (problems/needs/wants).
  • Be authentic in the follow-up based on the chemistry from the meeting (shared beliefs and personal connection)—less salesy.
  • Remind them of specific action items from the first meeting (call-to-action).

Touch #2: Content Specific Touch

  • Send them a value-add based on content for their situational problems/needs/wants that you have helped others with.
  • Show that you are the expert and constantly studying your field.
  • Email/text/social media bump (soft touch).
  • Use personal examples: article I wrote, video I made, book I’ve read, book gift.

Touch #3: Phone Call/Text

  • Trigger event—something personal or industry related that prompted the phone call to remind them how you can help.
  • Have you had a chance to (action steps based on first conversation)?
  • Set up another official meeting if still not closed.
  • Get them to recommit to shared beliefs and first meeting call-to-action (time frame).

Touch #4: Proof of Concept

  • Before the next meeting, show proof of concept.
  • Helped others just like them… (insert specific example).
  • Use testimonial video or quote.
  • Sell to the want.
  • Look forward to the next meeting so you can show them specifically how this will help them and their exact situation.

Touch #5: Formal Meeting

  • Formal meetings create a commitment and a vested interest.
  • Most people are busy and don’t want to meet just to meet but like outcomes.
  • Use this meeting to rekindle initial business chemistry.
  • Remind them of EOS.
  • We lose 10 percent of momentum every day we don’t take action (go for the close).
  • Used “soft touches” and “triggers” up until this point, but it’s time to close.

Touch #6: Social Consensus

  • Have a top 25 client speak to them on your behalf.
  • Sometimes an outside perspective and conversation can put their mind at ease.
  • Know that this is a major ask of our top-25 and educate them on why you are asking them, in particular, to leverage your relationship.

Touch #7: Challenger Sale (the Ask)

  • Have you noticed how hard we’ve worked to earn your business?
  • Has anyone else worked this hard to earn your business?
  • Based on our first conversation, I know we both believe the same things that . . . What is really stopping us from getting started?
  • More on the Challenger Concept tomorrow.

Touches #8-10: Repeat Top Strategies (time to move on?)

  • From the list above, what touch(es) were most positively reciprocated by the prospect?
  • Once we challenge the person, we continue to push to close the business before assessing if it’s time to cut bait and move on.

Follow-up exercise: Implement two or three of our follow-up touches into your current process as a “touch with value” to close more business quicker.

Habit #4 (Customer Experience)

Two of the most overused and underdone things in the service language are “unique” and “customer experience.” How many times have you heard, “We provide a unique experience to our customers through (insert overused words)”—words such as communication, fast, on time, service, relationship, trust, etc.? The reality is that these are all things that consumers should expect from their service providers—no matter the industry.

Define unique experience. Most businesses in saturated and commoditized industries simply copy and paste what everyone else is doing or saying. The first step to being remarkable is to truly define what unique means to you and your business. The next step is to create a systematic, proprietary process that’s uniquely yours. Remember this: Money changes hands when problems are solved. What problems are you truly solving for your clients?

New client onboarding is important. In order to quickly turn a new client into a promoter and into an advocate, we teach a 90-day onboarding process for all new clients. These are specific touches to drastically increase probability of referrals from new clients. The benchmark we use is three per 90-day cycle. After 90 days, that new client then turns into a promoter. Those who feed us five or more referrals per year should be considered advocates. It’s five times more difficult to get customers than it is to keep customers. We believe in attracting like-minded, new business through our promoters and advocates.

Define what unique customer experience is to you and your business. How are you asking for more business throughout your unique customer experience to drive more qualified leads?

Habit #5: (Entrepreneurial Spirit)

If you are in financial services, the reality is that you are an entrepreneur and should treat yourself that way. This means having daily habits, routines, behaviors, benchmarks, and activities that are consistent and disciplined. The number one challenge for small business owners is overcoming obscurity, meaning not enough people uniquely know who you are, what you do, or how you can solve their problems. We believe that money follows attention and activity. During this part of the presentation, we focus on helping you become a person of interest to elevate your status in the market to ultimately become a person of influence in your market who has a huge impact through your services.

It’s nobody’s job but your own to go out and attract more positive attention for you and your business. This is the entrepreneurial spirit and mind-set that many producers lack in their ability to grow long-term, sustainable businesses. These are the steps I used to grow my status in Denver without knowing a single person in six months.

5 Steps to Elevate Your Status:

  1. Attract vs. chase business by having and marketing your world-class explanation of services.
  2. Get proximity to prosper by targeting other community leaders and influencers to network and partner with.
  3. Give yourself permission to be a mini-celebrity in your space by becoming a person of interest who does fun, fascinating things with other influencers.
  4. Have both style and substance through the 10 ingredients shared by successful entrepreneurs through our person-of-influence entrepreneur evaluation.
  5. The reason we should all want to attract more attention for our business as persons of interest is to ultimately help more people as a person of influence in the market.

Entrepreneurial Spirit exercise: Fill out and rate yourself through our Entrepreneur Evaluation:

5 Habits Conclusion

Which of the five habits of highly effective salespeople do you need to focus on the most?

  1. World-class explanation of services to attract business?
  2. Lead generation selling system tied to high-value activities?
  3. A disciplined follow-up process to close faster?
  4. Unique customer experience to drive referrals?
  5. To elevate your status in the market as a person of influence?


Bruce Lund, Ph.D., has trained thousands of professionals as a business professor, career author/speaker, and now as a sales trainer. He spent over five years in higher education including service in the Texas A&M system as professor and program director before age 30. He transitioned back into corporate America helping grow a million-dollar coaching business as vice president and director of sales — all while training top producers in financial services and insurance. Dr. Lund then launched his own training business in 2016.


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