How to Change a Bad Selling Habit Into a Good Selling Habit in 20 Minutes

Suppose for a minute that there was a way to change bad selling habits into good selling habits.  What would this do for you and your career in sales?

The 20 Minute Imperative might be precisely what you need to pump up your sales for the remainder of the year. It’s a way to help change poor sales reps into a good sales rep or to change a good sales rep into a great sales rep.

Good Habits and Bad Habits

Let’s face it, in selling there are things that we like to do and there are things that we don’t like to do. We can call the things we like to do “good habits.” We do these repeatable events because we get enjoyment from them or because we are good at them or because they have a pay off. The point is: we do them because of some sort of positive reward.

We can call the things we don’t like to do “bad habits.” We avoid repeating certain events (for example, cold calling) because we don’t get enjoyment from them or because we are not very good at them or because they don’t seem to have an obvious or immediate pay off.  The point is we tend to associate some elements of selling with a negative connotation.

The real issue is this: how can we change a bad habit into a good habit?

The 20 Minute Imperative

The 20 Minute Imperative is a deceptively simple yet highly sensible and effective process or technique that can help you create good sales habits. It’s also a way of sneaking up on bad habits, reducing and then eliminating them completely.

Defined, an imperative is a binding or compelling rule, duty or requirement. From a selling perspective, the 20 Minute Imperative is a fundamental requirement or duty that helps achieve sales success. Simply put, the 20 Minute Imperative means taking any selling task or activity that you don’t like or don’t perform or don’t perform consistently or well and tackling it for 20 minutes, and only 20 minutes in a day. That’s it. Twenty short minutes and you’re done. That’s the imperative.

Why it Works

To understand the power of the 20 Minute Imperative you need to understand why and how it works. Once you understand the reasoning behind the process, it is much easier to accept and implement.

It’s ‘Doable’ and Easy

Faced with three or four hours of an unwanted task is daunting, if not intimidating.  The shear length of the activity stops most of us dead in our tracks. We procrastinate and the task gets left undone which destroys our effectiveness. Twenty minutes, on the other hand, is a doable amount.  Anyone can find twenty minutes and it is not nearly as intimidating as the alternative. This is the brilliance of the 20 Minute Imperative. It breaks a tough task down into a relatively easy and doable task.

It Creates Momentum

The second reason stems directly from the first. Sometimes it’s not the doing of a given task that’s the issue but rather getting started.  Because twenty minutes is doable and easy we are more inclined to actually get started and that creates momentum.  Once momentum has actually begun, the activity is not nearly as challenging.

It Keeps Bad Habits at Bay

The trouble with tackling any unpleasant task for too lengthy a time is that we are reminded just how unpleasant the task truly is.  For example, suppose you recognize the need to focus on cold calling because your sales have taken a dip.  You schedule the entire morning to dial, dial, and dial.  After an hour or so, you are frustrated and unsuccessful. You are reminded of “painful” the process can be.  At that precise moment, you begin to fall back into your old bad habit: giving up. What is more, procrastination take takes over and you skip the cold calling the next day and the day after and so on

By tackling cold calling for only twenty minutes, you keep the bad habit of procrastination at bay. In effect, you sneak up on the task and avoid the typical discouragement and frustration that leads to avoidance behavior. You are not reminded of how grotesquely unpleasant the task can be. But what you HAVE done is begun the process of calling which you had been avoiding for so long.

It Builds Tolerance and Strength

Calling in 20 minute spurts will help build tolerance to any unpleasant task.  But because you are actually working on the task you build strength and competence.  This in turn, creates a sense of mastery and confidence. You will find that moving from 20 minutes to 25 minutes is a breeze. From there, 30 minutes is doable. Eventually 40 minutes is routine. And so on.

It Builds Success

Because you are doing something, results begin to occur. Success, even small success, breeds more success.  It can’t help but work.

6 Steps to Implementing the 20 Minute Imperative

1. Choose your task or activity.

Pick one “bad” habit that you would like tackle; maybe its cold calling, maybe its paperwork.  Regardless, choose only one and focus on it. The reason why you choose only one bad habit is because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.  Applying the 20 Minute Imperative to four or five tasks might seem like a good idea but implementing the process can be a challenge until you have mastered the process.  You can get discouraged and in a short while you’ll find yourself precisely in the same position as you started.

2. Schedule the 20 Minute Imperative

This is probably the toughest element of the 20 Minute Imperative.  You need to schedule the 20 minutes each and every day. You need to do this at the beginning of every week and record it somewhere so that you can VISUALLY see the allotted time.  Your best bet is usually first thing in the morning.  Get the task over with otherwise the tendency will be to put it off.

3. Work only the 20 Minutes

Do twenty minutes and no more; at least while you are getting started.  Oh sure, you might be all revved up initially and tackle the task for more than the allotted time. I don’t want to discourage this but I do want to remind you that it can awaken bad habits. Your initial enthusiasm can wane and eventually the process will diminish to nothing. Better to keep a slower and steadier pace and build momentum, strength and confidence over time.

4. Focus on the process and not the results

This is critical. This is vital. This the most important point. Focus on the process of planning and doing the 20 Minute Imperative when scheduled and for the twenty minutes.  Forget about the end result! If you don’t get a prospect on the line, don’t worry about it. If you only manage to tackle a half inch of paper work in a twelve inch pile, don’t sweat it.  What you want to do is train yourself to DO the task regularly.  This is the good habit you want to achieve. Sales and other results will start to come as you CONTINUE THE PROCESS.

5. Don’t freak out if you fall

I guarantee you that at some point you will probably stumble and fall. You’ll miss your twenty minutes here and there. Hey, no big deal! Don’t freak out and think that you are a loser.  This is negative self talk and it destroys your efforts to change.  Simply begin the process again…and again… and again. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it.

6. Expand the process

As you get better, stronger and more successful, you can tack on more time if necessary. You might be surprised to discover that twenty minutes is enough.  You can also expand the process for other tasks or activities that you want to improve upon.  You’ll have a process that you know works.


The 20 Minute Imperative is not a stunningly new concept.  Time management experts and others will tell you that simply working on something will help you achieve a goal.  The 20 Minute Imperative is easy and ‘doable’ and can help you meet and exceed your sales goals.  So why wait? Start your 20 Minute Imperative today

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