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7 Habits of Highly Effective Sales People - How to Use the "7 Habits" in Relationship-Based Sales
by Sonya Sullins


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change was a groundbreaker when it was first published in 1990, and it continues to be a business bestseller with more than 10 million copies sold.  Stephen Covey, an internationally respected leadership authority, realizes that true success encompasses a balance of personal and professional effectiveness, so living the 7 Habits will enhance one’s ability to performing better in both arenas.

The premise of the 7 Habits is that there are seven principles that, if established as habits, will help one achieve true interdependent effectiveness.  The key to achieving this goal is to align oneself to principles of a character ethic and to values that are universal and timeless.

As a certified Franklin Covey Facilitator, I would love to share with you how to apply the principles of the 7 Habits to Selling – to Relationship-Based Selling.  Please understand that the study of the 7 Habits is easily a lifelong pursuit.  In this brief article, I will only be able to give you a broad overview.

Let’s start with “What are the 7 Habits”:

1. Be Proactive

This habit is about taking personal responsibility for our choices (and the consequences of those choices).  One does not attribute outside influences (such as moods, feelings, circumstances) to the consequences of one’s choices.  Rather, we acknowledge our outcomes to be a product of the choices we have made.

This first habit, although it might sound simple or easy, is really one the more difficult habits to master.

Perhaps the easiest way to think of it is “stimulus and response”.  Stimulus comes at us all the time, and not all of it is good.  We naturally respond.  We often respond immediately and reactively.  Be Proactive suggests that we find that little special snippet of time between the “stimulus” and our “response”.  In that gap is where we choose what our reaction might be.

For example, if someone cuts you off as you are driving in downtown Chicago; you might easily react in negative manner.  How might your behavior change if the same thing happened on the street you live on?  On your way into your child’s school?  As you are pulling into a local restaurant?

As you think through this, be honest with yourself.  Might you withhold some, or all, of your negative reaction if you thought you might be yelling at (or gesturing at) your neighbor, or the parent of your child’s friend, or someone you might be seated next to at dinner?

Looking at it this way, we can see that we really do have the ability to choose and not just to react.  Much of our behavior is dictated by what we anticipate the consequence to our behavior to be.  You see, we do have some room for improvement here!

2. Begin with the End in Mind:

This is the habit of vision – your end result or outcome.  In effect, this habit suggests we live by design, and not by default.  Examples of this are your company’s mission statement, or you own personal mission statement, even your annual, 5-year or 10-year goals.

It can easily become our habit to do today what we did yesterday and do tomorrow what we did today.  This cycle can go on for years.  It is entirely unproductive as we are missing the opportunity to do the things today that will get us to where we want to be tomorrow, or next year, or in ten years.

3. Put First Things First

This is the habit of integrity and execution.  In other words, we’ve decided to be responsible for our choices/decisions (Habit 1), and we have an outcome/goal in mind (Habit 2) and now we put in place the steps to achieve our outcome (Habit 3).

This habit is often referred to as the time management habit.  In addition to knowing what the end result should look like, the key to putting first things first, is to know what the first thing should be.  What are your “big rocks” (major priorities)?

This is the habit of prioritizing and staying on track with those priorities.  Don’t allow non-urgent and unimportant tasks to take your time from those that are urgent and/or important.

4. Think Win-Win:

This is the habit of “mutual benefit”.  In other words, effective, long-term relationships require mutual respect and mutual benefit. 

This habit suggests we move out of the mindset of scarcity (there is only so much to go around, and the more you get the less there is for me), and move into the mindset of abundance (there is plenty out there for everyone, and more to spare).

When we Think Win-Win, we strive to find a solution that works for both parties. 

In our highly competitive society, it does not come easily to think win-win.  It is in this collaborative spirit that we build real relationships and trust.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood:

This is the habit of mutual understanding.  In order to communicate effectively, we must first understand each other.

Typically, we listen with the intent to reply.  Think about it, we formulate our response while the other is still speaking!

This habit suggests we listen with intent to understand.  Only after we are assured we understand the perspective of the other, do we proceed to make our point known.  It takes much practice and discipline to hold our tongue and withhold our response.  Commit to trying to seek first to understand!

6. Synergize:

The definition of “synergy” can most easily be explained as “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Rather than finding a solution that is either my way, your way, or a compromise, we believe that together we can create a better way than either of us could have alone, and we do so without compromise.

One can only get to the point of true synergy when they have effectively practiced the preceding habits.  If you don’t go into the discussion wanting a “win” for both parties (Habit 4) , and if you are listening only to reply (Habit 5), you will not find a truly synergistic solution.

Trying to achieve the goal of synergy is often reserved for big decisions with significant consequences.  It’s not necessary to go for synergy every time the family goes out for dinner!

7. Sharpen the Saw:

To maintain and increase effectiveness, we must renew ourselves in body, heart, mind and soul.

So often, we find ourselves running the race of life without refueling.  We can do this for quite some time and still be quite productive.  However, inevitably it catches up with us.  When it does, we feel out of balance, we lose our effectiveness and we may even jeopardize our health, both physical and mental.

The overarching philosophy of the 7 Habits is this:

The first three habits (Be Proactive, Begin With the End in Mind, Put First Things First) describe our “Private Victory”.  In other words, this is all about the work we do improving ourselves. 

One does not study the 7 Habits to “fix others”.  One studies the 7 Habits to live life in alignment with their values and be willing to take responsibility for their choices.  This practice builds our trustworthiness.

The next three habits (Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, and Synergize) describe our “Public Victory”.  In other words, this is how we interact with others.  The relationships we build with others help us build our trust in others.  We operate in a world that is interdependent.

Now, let’s take the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and look at how we might apply the 7 Habits to the sales process

I like to call it the 7 Habits of Relationship-Based Selling.

1. Be Proactive

Your attitude towards sales – or the paradigm that you have – will largely determine your outcomes. 

Take a minute and jot down some adjectives that come to mind when you think of salespeople.  Were any of your answers a bit on the negative side?  This is very common...

We have the ability to reframe our mindset or paradigm for selling (or for anything else, for that matter).  For example:  If you view selling (or salespeople) as pushy, annoying, insincere, fast-talkers, this negative image will stand in the way of helping others.  You can make the choice to view selling in a positive way. 

If you choose to view selling (or salespeople) as partners, helpers, educators, solution-finders, consultants, this positive image will help you create positive outcomes. 

2. Begin With the End in Mind

What is your vision?  Your goal?  What outcome are you trying to achieve?

Envision outcomes before you act.  If you are making a call, what do you want to accomplish from that call?  If you are meeting in person, what do you hope to accomplish during this meeting?  Be very clear in knowing what outcome you are trying to achieve each step of the way.

Keep in mind, not every goal has to be monumental.  Maybe your goal in making a call is to gain  trust and build a bond, maybe it’s to secure an appointment to meet in person.  Perhaps your prospect is not ready to make the commitment (close).  That’s okay.  However, still know what you intend to accomplish with each action.

3. Put First Things First

What is that you need to do to reach your goal.  What are your priorities? 

Begin with the end in mind and work backwards to today.  Schedule in your BIG ROCKS and then fill in other less important tasks around those scheduled blocks of time. 

Refrain from getting into the day-in/day-out flow.  Actively plan your activities for each day.  It can be easy to get lax in the sales process.  Don’t expect your prospects to follow up with you.  You need to take the initiative.  If you wait until the perfect time or mood to cold-call, you probably won’t.  If you don’t schedule in your follow up communications, they probably won’t et done.  If you don’t apply discipline and make your high-leverage activities your priority, you’ll squander your time and wonder again and again, “What happened to the day?”

4. Think Win-Win

Start with the attitude that you want the other person to get what they want and you also fully intend to get what you want. 

If you start with this attitude, it will keep you from getting competitive and just going for what you want while alienating the other. 

It will also keep you from becoming too compassionate (or even insecure), and just giving up on what you want, and letting others get their way.

Think Compassion and Courage.  The compassion to look for a solution that will work for the other: the courage to make sure you are also looking for a solution that will work for you.

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Discovery, Discovery, Discovery!  Then, Be the Solution!

Use open-ended questions freely.  Open ended questions help you understand the others issues, challenges, desires, and emotions.  When you need specific details, ask clarifying question.  Clarifying questions can usually be answered with a simple yes or no.  Use these sparingly.  Listen empathetically, paraphrase and reflect back.  Take as much time as needed to get as much information as possible.  You may be working with prospects who are dealing with many emotions through this process.  Empathy is extremely important.

Do not launch into your product/service and its benefits and features until you fully understand the needs, wants, fears, etc. of your prospect.

Then, use your new knowledge and understanding of your prospect to describe the benefit to them.  Refrain from launching into a laundry list features and benefits of the product/service you have to offer.  You may be talking yourself right out of the close as you confuse and dilute the client as well as the solution!  You goal is to become the solution to their problem-not just a salesperson touting their greatness!

6. Synergize

Build the Relationship/Partnership. 

If you can create solutions together better than either of you could independently, you will share a future of collaboration and partnership in all your endeavors. 

Keep in mind that true synergy can only happen if you have followed the preceding habits – Think Win-Win, and Seek First to Understand...

7. Sharpen the Saw

Celebrate each step of the way – love the process!

There can be multiple steps in the sales process that can span over a significant period of time.  Allow yourself to celebrate your successes within each phase.  It can become overwhelming to focus only on the outcome and overlook the smaller achievements along the way.

In summary, to gain the full benefit of the 7 Habits experience, you may want to read the book (or reread the book), listen to the CD’s or attend a live workshop.  Personally, I've read and reread the book on multiple occasions.  I've listened to the CD's - and sometimes I found my my attention span waning.  I highly recommend a live workshop.  It a life-changing, transformational experience.  You will internalize the values and concepts and find ways to make it meaningful and applicable in your own life immediately.  After my first live workshop, I was so personally inspired that I completed the full training to become a certified Franklin Covey Facilitator.  It brings me great pleasure to bring more meaning into the lives of others.  I love bringing forth that energy in my live workshops!

As I mentioned, practicing the "7 Habits" is a lifelong learning process.  As much as one might hope, the principles take discipline to incorporate into our daily lives.  The outcomes are well worth the effort, however.  It's not sexy, but it is a journey on the path of a life worth living. 

I hope that I was able to pique your interest and help you see how the 7 Habits is applicable to real life situations.  Your challenge:  Can you find a real life situation that is a challenge for you and use the 7 Habits to navigate more swiftly through those waters?  I bet you can!


The Author

Sonya Sullins

Sonya Sullins is the founder of Human Capital Management Institute, LLC.  HCMI programs and principles enable organizations to make the most of the superstars they have, gain the attention of the superstars they don't employ (but would like to), and effectively manage poor performers.

The key is Employee Engagement - without that, you will struggle to sustain maximum profitability, especially in this challenging economic environment.

Our focus is on leveraging and maximizing human capital (the talent, education, strengths, skills, etc. of your workforce).  We specialize in increasing Employee Engagement.  Engaged employees result in increased Retention, Productivity and Customer Devotion.  Organizations with highly engaged employees increase their profits, on average, by 27% (based on Gallup University research and as evidenced by outcomes),

HCMI is adept at identifying and implementing the crucial elements of Cultural Transformation and aligning human capital initiatives with organizational strategy.  As a speaker, consultant and writer, Sonya inspires senior executives and their teams to shatter the illusion that success, measured by aligning people with profit, is not possible.  Let Sonya be your trusted advisor, using visionary leadership and her corporate experience to help you exceed your goals, and transform your organizational culture.

Contact us now at 877-HUMAN10 (877-486-2610) or 608.279.0691
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Copyright 2009 by Sonya Sullins. All rights reserved.

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