Some say that it takes 21 days to form a habit; others argue that is a myth. A recent study by the European Journal of Social Psychology has actually dispelled that myth. The study found that, on average, it takes people 66 days to form a habit. In fact, those studied took anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit—quite a discrepancy from the popular notion of 21 days.
Why all the talk about habits? I will explain, but let me ask a question. How many of you have taken part in one-day training or workshop sessions? You get all worked up with new ideas, new methods, and new tools, and then you go back to work and gradually the interest you developed dissipates, either because of existing work pressures that preclude your ability to use your newfound expertise or because the need or opportunity does not present itself as urgently or frequently as expected.
This problem is common with many training and workshop situations. I know a systems analyst whose employer sent her for expensive training that was required for impending projects. Unfortunately, when she returned to work the project was repeatedly delayed and her newfound capabilities waned. When the project finally launched, she was in panic mode trying to relearn what she’d been taught.
I have seen and experienced the same with sales training. Without ongoing practice and performance measurement, it’s hard to make things stick and ultimately become habit. That’s what I want to discuss here: forming a social selling habit.
I want to be fully transparent. ArCompany and I offer social selling workshops to salespeople and marketers in a variety of industry sectors. However, we do not stop there. If I was a personal trainer, I would not have turned you into a specimen of physical fitness just by giving you a tour of the gym. The same applies to social selling workshops.
The most we can accomplish is exposing participants to new tools, methods, and thinking. It is only through consistent effort and application of what they learned, along with ongoing review and measurement, that the learning becomes ingrained. Ultimately, we are not teaching about tools or technology. We teach so that participants will adopt a new social selling mindset that becomes second nature to them.
I teach entrepreneurship and business model design at OCAD University. We use a number of frameworks in the course but we workshop them numerous times throughout a semester (note, more than 21 days). I take my students from simple models to more complex ones by layering on other factors and attributes to the situation being examined. The initial exposure to the frameworks lays the groundwork and then workshops over the course of the semester serve as practice. What is really rewarding is hearing from my students after they have finished the course that they have continued to apply what they learned and have been successful in doing so; that they use the framework more intuitively—dare I say, habitually.
We hear the same from those we teach about social selling. We know that an afternoon or even a full day’s exposure to our curriculum does not compare to ongoing effort. We take great pride in hearing about their successes and seeing their online presence grow and flourish.
So if you hear people dismissing the idea of a social selling workshop or training session, ask them to clarify what they mean. Are they against workshops and/or training because of their poor track record as one-offs? Or are they like us, championing ongoing social selling development programs?
If a company or individuals take what they are exposed to in the initial social selling session and participate in an ongoing program that sets goals and tracks performance, their social selling capabilities have greater likelihood of becoming habitual and achieving permanence.
It is all well and good to teach someone how to optimize their LinkedIn profile and use LinkedIn for prospecting, but those insights become more powerful if associated goals are developed and pursued. Performance metrics could include such things as network growth, funnel growth, developing prospects into qualified leads, account penetration, InMail open rates, Inmails to Calls/Meetings conversion rates, and, most importantly, closed sales resulting from social selling efforts.
So I was being a bit facetious with my title. Many times people have participated in social selling workshops, webinars, or training sessions, and when they left and returned to work they fell back into their old habits. They claimed that they didn’t have time to adopt everything that they learned. They picked and chose what they wanted to adopt from what they learned, but without accountability, ongoing practice, and measurement, the prospect of them become successful social sellers was unlikely, possibly even doomed.
In order to be a successful social seller, a person needs to go back to work after that first workshop and map out a plan either on their own, with colleagues, or with support from specialists like ArCompany (yes, I was selling there). Like the aforementioned personal trainer example, people are more successful adopting new habits and achieving goals by stating them publicly and having accountability built into it.
We would love to hear from people who have adopted social selling. How has it gone for you? We would like to hear what has worked and/or what you found to be hard about forming the habit. Provided you are comfortable, we would love to hear from those who tried and gave up or simply didn’t achieve the goals they set out to pursue. What prompted you to abandon the pursuit? What obstacles stood in the way of your success? Maybe there is still an opportunity to turn things around, even gradually.
Drop us a line and let’s chat.
A recognized senior social strategist, speaker, and blogger. He has held senior strategy roles with wireless, e-business, financial, and social CRM service providers, helping clients remain competitive by embracing social media and digital technologies.