Chains of Habit

Warren Buffet has said, “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Habits, both good and bad, get us through the day, and can keep us on track toward productive outcomes. But they can, and often do, mean running on autopilot rather than consciously choosing the best response.


What animals do is react. Humans have the ability to choose and, therefore, to respond. But often, like a dog, we simply react to a situation. Is this a good habit or not?

As any consultant will be happy to tell you, “It depends.” For simple situations that require an immediate action, for example an amber traffic light about to turn red as you approach an intersection, you don’t want to be poring over what options you may have. “Hmm, stop? Not stop? Thinking, thinking…”

But immediately reacting to a buyer’s questioning of something you presented, for example, “I’d like to know where you got these figures you’re showing,” may not be the best course of action. Too often, in such a situation, our reaction might be to defend our numbers, feeling they’re being attacked. Of course, you can choose to do this, but you may want to ask yourself: What other choices/responses are available to me here?

Rather than defend or, worse, simply restate your numbers, you might ask, “Is there something in particular that you’d like me to explain?” “Are you asking about the figures, specifically, or our approach for coming up with them?” This type of response can open a conversation rather than create a verbal shoving match.

Taking the briefest moment to consider your choices, and then consciously choosing one, is about being present, and intentional. To know why I’m about to say or do what I’m about to say or do.

A different example of habitual behavior in sales is repeatedly calling on the same individuals/roles in accounts/prospects. In Strategic Selling parlance, calling on User and Technical Buying Influences (UBIs and TBIs), avoiding the Economic Buying Influence (EBI—final approver) and not developing Coaches. This is a universal pattern that carries with it real vulnerability to sales opportunities. The UBIs and TBIs represent a seller’s comfort zone. The place they run to, hang out in, call upon without intentionally asking is this next call the best, most useful contact to advance this opportunity?

Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine, talks about being “Mindful not Mindless” in my interview with him – watch the video here.

Whether you’re consciously choosing the most useful, powerful, appropriate person to call upon, way to ask/answer a question, strategy to manage an account, reply to an email, or simply reacting to things as they come up in your daily routine, you’re forming habits. Since these will become chains too heavy to break, why not intentionally choose the ones that best serve you and your customer relationships?

Here’s another thing you can consciously choose to do that will pay you big dividends: Take our 2017 persona based sales & service survey [click here].

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