A new year means a lot for a sales organization: new quarter, new quotas, new prospects, and possibly new team members or leadership. It also means new goals to set, which can be difficult to uphold for an entire twelve months. Below are a few habits that sales leaders and reps should kick in 2015, and easy-to-implement ways to make sure these changes stick.

1. Accepting “Now isn’t a good time” from prospects

This is the easiest response for a busy or uninterested prospect to give to a sales rep. This is because the rep usually doesn’t know how to keep the conversation moving past this, other than to ask when a good time might be. Try these responses instead:

-When do you think you’ll have an idea of your timeframe?
-When do you want or need to see results by?

These two questions prompt the prospect to consider a definitive timeline, rather than replying next month or year.  Framing the questions by how to see results (and suggesting that your solution is what will yield results), you are giving prospects more of a reason to stick to a timeline.

2. Pitching before listening

When speaking with a prospect, it is much more productive to hear about the organization’s background and priorities before going right into your generic pitch. Try these tips to improve your customer conversations:

Ask shorter questions, like “why?” and “could you explain that further?” to elicit more detailed responses from prospects
-Limit the amount of time you spend talking without asking a question (typically 20 seconds)
-Have an abundance of questions ready to ask each prospect. Focus on their business, pain points, goals and challenges.

This should help you frame your responses and how your product can help them.

3. Accepting excuses from sales reps

Excuses are toxic for the workplace. When sales reps aren’t accepting responsibility for poor or undesirable results, such as missed quotas or lost deals, it doesn’t allow reps to grow from the situation. Sales leaders must stop accepting excuses, and instead work with reps through failures to figure out what went wrong, but also what went well and how to move forward.

4. Creating and updating your own sales collateral

One of the many excuses reps might throw your way is that they don’t have the right collateral they need for a specific conversation. Your initial response might be, “Then you can make your own!”

This might not be the best solution, though. When a sales rep is spending 30 hours each month creating and updating sales content, 30 hours of selling are sacrificed. To fix this, ask your reps how often they use collateral created by marketing versus what they create on their own, and if the latter is greater than the former, a conversation between sales and marketing needs to occur. Remember that marketing doesn’t have a crystal ball that tells them exactly what collateral sales needs, so dialogue surrounding sales’ priorities and marketing processes would benefit both teams.

5. Using the same sales presentation for each prospect meeting

This may seem contradictory to habit #4, but your reps shouldn’t be using the exact same presentation for each sales conversation. Each prospect is different, and in today’s world of hyper-personalization, they expect a one-on-one, unique conversation. This requires a little homework; reps should know about the prospect’s industry, competitors, and general company goals and priorities. One way to do this is by creating a universal, on-brand presentation template that all reps can access and easily personalize, which will cut production time and improve meeting quality.

These five habits are ones that affect all sales organizations, but are also easy to kick by putting in a concerted effort to change sales processes. Some are short term, some may take longer to see results, but all will improve your sales culture and success. Here’s to starting 2015 as strong as possible!