The Hire Sense

The Singular Difference Between Introverts and Extroverts

Stereotypes abound around introverts and extroverts-most of them are simply untrue.  The stereotypes go too far in categorizing behaviors.  Part of the issue flows from the Myers-Briggs and its binary assignment of introversion/extroversion.  You are simply one or the other…completely, according to that tool (of which I am not a big fan).

This article provides a succinct, accurate definition based on Jung’s work:

Shyness and being outgoing don’t have anything to do with it; it’s more about where we get our energy from. In fact, the differences are pretty simple:

  • Introverts get exhausted by social interaction and need solitude to recharge.
  • Extroverts get anxious when left alone and get energy from social interaction.

That’s it. There’s nothing about shyness, being a homebody, or how adventurous you are. Both types can be social, both can creative, both can be leaders, and so on.

Remarkably simple, is it not?  The binary issue still exists as there truly is a spectrum to introversion/extroversion.  People tend to vary, or move, between them.  Jung called these people “ambiverts.” This is key in leadership.  People definitely have a preference and lean towards one side or the other.  But rarely do you find someone who is categorically wired one way, though there are some.

I often tell leaders to focus on the energy of the salesperson.  Some gain energy in the group while others lose it.  Neither one is better, just be cognizant of the difference and you will be a more effective leader.

Cultural Qualifying

I ran into an old coworker, whom I consider a good friend, at a coffee shop this Friday morning.  He is the VP of Sales with 75 or so direct reports.  His company is international with a majority of their revenue occurring in Asia.

He was telling me about sales training he held for the entire sales team.  The focus was on negotiating and, more specifically, how to ask the right questions to qualify the opportunity.  The Asian sales reps balked at some of the questions based solely on their approach to qualifying.  Let’s just say they prefer to take a more passive, unquestioning approach which leads to prayer rug forecasts and lower revenue.

Obviously there are some cultural issues when it comes to qualifying.  Anyone who has been to Japan knows that there are certain formalities you have to follow to honor your counterparts.  However, I would argue that the qualifying issue is an individual issue.  At the risk of sounding overly simple, sales is a difficult profession that requires a skill set that is uncommon to the majority of the population.

The training that my friend provided was not provocative, excessive nor “risky.”  It was simply communication made clear by a sound questioning strategy.  This approach is the essence of qualifying.  It spans cultures.  It leads to the important point that if you are attempting to hire stronger salespeople, you must incorporate an assessment to get an x-ray of the salesperson’s abilities.  Do they have the right mix of talent and motivation to ask the difficult questions required for successful selling?

If you are looking for a solution, we can help.

Leadership During Uncertain Times

“Strong opinions, weakly held” is the mantra from this Harvard Business Review article.  Actually, the article provides 3 excellent leadership suggestions:

Get emotional.

Be whimsical.

Express doubt.

Now those 3 items, in terms of leadership, should pique your interest.  In case not, here is an excerpt from each topic:

Get emotional – More than purpose or perks, employees value heartfelt moments of connection that meet their needs as social beings.

Be whimsical – By exposing their idiosyncrasies, passions, and whims, bosses can make themselves more human.

Express doubt – “Employees, more than ever, are individualists. Leaders, in response, are learning to be less the visionary, less the sage, less the objective-setter, and more the shaper, the connector, the questioner.”

Leadership is changing, and maybe every generation states that.  To me, it simply seems that “employees” are becoming more individualistic, more independent which is driving the need for 21st century leadership that straddles the chasm between leading and managing.  This article provides 3 salient suggestions for any modern-day leader.

As they say, read the entire thing.

The Lost Art of Decorum

Maybe I am aging faster than I will admit, but I have seen a trend in the professional workplace that is unsettling.

Decorum.  As defined by Webster, it is “correct or proper behavior that shows respect and good manners.”

One of the things I tell hiring managers is that the initial candidate interview is as good as it will get.  The candidates’ behavior, manners, etiquette, communication, etc. will never exceed their level as observed in that first interview.  Therefore, the candidate’s decorum should be exemplary in that interview to the point where it is memorable.

Sadly, I simply am not seeing this exemplary decorum nearly as much as I used to 15 years ago.  Perhaps as a society we are simply becoming more crass.  Nonetheless, the interview should be treated as hallowed ground and respected in such a way that crassness does not permeate it.

I have noticed this change not only in the younger generation, but also the Boomer generation.  I have observed aging leaders, who have become out of touch with the younger generations, find a connection (earning laughs) by being crassly provocative.

Younger generations communicate in…how shall I say…in an overly casual manner.  Cursing comes to mind and I have experienced it an multiple phone interviews recently.  The expletives have come out in face-to-face interviews also.  I’m not talking about shockingly blue language, but still language that simply does not fit in a high-level sales position interview.

Professional salespeople need to possess an impressive level of professionalism, or decorum, when approaching prospects in today’s business world.  A lack of this decorum being exhibited in the initial interview, when they are allegedly at their best, is a big red flag for me when considering whom to move to the next level in the hiring process.

The Importance Of Accountability

I harp on this topic frequently, but it is a foundational need for all strong sales leaders.  You must hold your people accountable to reach goals, close deals and follow your system (a broad word that entails your requirements for performance).  The key is to simply do it…you don’t have to be “good” at it, but you do have to do it.  Many sales leaders miss this important point.

So I give you this Selling Power article with a comprehensive view of this accountability need for all sales leaders.  The author makes a significant point that often gets overlooked by sales leaders who like to use the stick before the carrot.  First the accountability piece:

3) Hold your team and each member accountable for goals.  You don’t have to threaten your team members to remind them that they’re responsible (to you and to one another) for meeting the goals they set.  Instead, inspire their best effort by reminding them of their importance to the team and company.  Tell them you’ll hold them accountable for succeeding because you have faith in their ability to get the job done.

Well said.  And to go further, you will have to discipline the underperformers.  Do not skip past this requirement.  Now for the part that I have seen some overzealous sales leaders dismiss (emphasis mine):

4) Be supportive.  Meeting sales goals is a team effort, and you’re an important part of that team.  You can’t make the calls for your salespeople, but you can give them every chance to succeed by providing your support and guidance.  Remind your salespeople that you’re on their side, and that you’ll be available to help them in any way you can.  If you’re going to hold your salespeople accountable for meeting their goals, you have to hold yourself accountable for helping them.

Absolutely spot on.  You have to help them in the manner in which they need help to develop and succeed.  Don’t close deals for them.  Don’t read them the riot act and not help them.  Don’t go silent with the underperformers.  You have to be a coach right in the middle of the huddle helping call the plays that will lead to their success.  Anything short of that and you are not holding up your end of the leadership equation.

Silence Kills Deals?

My mouth is still agape after reading this article in the MSP Business Journal – How to close a sales more effectively.

The first howler:

Anyone involved in sales knows silence can kill deals. If you present your best recommendations to a prospect and stop talking, he might say, “That’s food for thought. Let me think about it. I’ll get back to you.”

What?  No, not true.  The problem the vast majority of salespeople have is the inability to use silence.  A pregnant pause is a powerful tool that helps bring forth information.  It is important to remember that the person asking the questions is actually the person controlling the conversation.

The second howler:

They are all closed-end questions. When faced with a “yes or no” choice, the uncomfortable answer is “no.” Read the questions, answer “no” and see how you feel. It’s likely a negative answer requires justification and you can’t immediately think of reasons.

These suggestions come from the financial world which is predominantly based on selling to “consumers.”  Maybe things are different there, but in the B2B world open-ended questions are necessity.  It has been my experience that prospects are comfortable and adept at saying no.  My experience has been that close-ended questions quickly move you to the “think it over” response from the prospect.

The author clearly has a different approach to selling and perhaps it works well for him.  My take is that these tips would lead to atrocious results in the B2B world.

If you want to close more effectively, invest all, and I mean all, of your time in developing your qualifying skills.  At the end of the day, qualified deals close themselves.

Tracking Sales Reps 24/7

A sales executive was fired for deleting an app on her cell phone.  The details from the Fox News story:

A sales executive was fired after she deleted an app on her phone that tracked her every move, allowing her employer to know where she was 24/7.

It was only a matter of time until this type of issue surfaced.  My personal take is that tracking her 24/7 is an incredible invasion of privacy and her actions were the same ones I would have chosen in that situation.  However, let me throw this at you from the former Judge quoted in the article:

Judge Andrew Napolitano said that in the case of this traveling saleswoman, her employer had a legitimate interest in knowing where she was going, and that was the reason for the app.

Judge Napolitano added that she had no right to delete the app, but she could have disabled the phone while she was at home, on vacation or otherwise on her own time.

Ok, he is familiar with the legality of such things.  I am still shocked, but I suspect this isn’t the last case we have heard regarding this topic.  For now, here is a very interesting, if extreme, workaround from the article:

Where do you put your phone when you don’t want anyone to know where you are? Gretchen Carlson asked.

“You ready for this? A refrigerator,” Judge Napolitano said. “No signal can get in and no signal can get out.”

Objectivity Trumps Bias

We are all biased, it is simply how we are wired no matter what people believe.  Our brains have the innate ability to categorize – a distinct survival mechanism for sure.  This ability becomes problematic in the hiring process as hiring managers can often be influenced by their own biases when making hiring decisions.  To be blunt, hiring managers are prewired to clone themselves in their hires.

So what of this?  Does it matter?  If your hiring manager is strong, especially a sales manager, wouldn’t it be best to clone them?

No.  End of post…ok, I won’t be so short.  The key to successful hiring, especially as it pertains to sales hiring, is to maintain objectivity for as long as possible in your process.  This is part of the process we teach to companies as they move to improve and strengthen their sales hiring results.  The key to objectivity is that it trumps bias.  It provides a rational, unemotional view of a candidate before our natural biases and intuition can start forming our decision.

Some thoughts on how to improve the objectivity in your process:

  1. Your first contact with the candidate should be a phone interview.  The phone is a natural barrier that removes visual biases.  When done correctly, you would be shocked at how much you can learn about a candidate during a 30 min. phone call.
  2. Secondly, use an online assessment to “x-ray” the candidates communication style, motivations, aptitudes, skills, etc.  This is self-serving, but it may be the most critical step in the process.  The computer is unbiased to a fault.  The information provides a look into the candidate’s abilities in a way that is next to impossible to deceive.  The right tools can provide more information about an external candidate than you probably know about your current team!
  3. Lastly, use a team approach to the first interview – more people, more viewpoints, less bias.  I am a strong proponent of team interviews, especially in the sales world.  Each person on the hiring side of the table will have a slightly different take on the candidate and their responses, fit, approach, etc.  This is valuable as the team can debrief after each initial interview.  The secondary benefit is that it puts pressure on the candidate.  The candidates that handle this pressure and excel are noteworthy and memorable.  They are the ones to give strong consideration to for moving forward in your process.

If you incorporate those 3 concepts into your hiring process, I guarantee you will improve your objectivity immensely.  The increased objectivity will lead to stronger hires with far fewer misalignments on your growing team.

4 Social Age Selling Skills

I don’t consider myself old, but I am starting to waver on that belief after reading this Selling Power article.  I started selling back in the days before cell phones and Internet, when the fax machine was viewed as such a timesaver.  Frightening by today’s standards.

The article identifies 4 selling skills you need in today’s socially-connected world.  Here are the first 3:

    1. Social Listening
    2. Social Researching
    3. Social Networking

Those 3 are critical and hopefully most salespeople are aware of these needed skills.  However, the 4th point is most interesting:

4. Social Engaging

This is the newest skill for sellers.  Consequently, it holds the biggest competitive advantage for sellers who master it quickly.  There are two types of social-engagement actions:

    1. Commenting on someone else’s post
    2. Initiating a post

I agree with the Social Engaging activity – the majority of sales that I encounter are relationship-based.  The transactional sales have moved to more automated channels.  The relationship sale is difficult to initiate by phone or email.  But an online conversation…that is a back door to initiate the relationship.  I also appreciate the thought-leader aspect of it.  If you are able to provide some value-add to the conversation, you instantly frame the relationship in a favorable (for the salesperson) light.

The Lost Art Of Writing

No doubt we live in a technology-based world driven by expedited activities, from instant text messages to YouTube videos on demand.  Communication moves fast.

One area I believe it hurts is applying for sales positions.  I realize an ever-increasing amount of opportunities are found, shared and contacted through LinkedIn, but what of finding opportunities for which you do not have a direct connection.  I think this activity is similar to cold calling/contacting.

When I am sourcing for sales candidates, I receive many resumes forwarded to me through the job boards and LinkedIn.  Resumes.  It is rare that I receive a cover letter anymore.  For me, receiving a resume is similar to receiving a product brochure with no letter…I am left to review the product on my own and make a go/no-go decision.  An accompanying email or letter explaining what this solution offers to me is of value in that it will (hopefully) explain how this solution will help solve a current pain I am experiencing.

Cover letters work in the same manner.  Now, I’m not talking the pre-canned, generic cover letters that state the candidate is a good fit for the role based on the ad.  Rather, a strong cover letter explains how this candidate’s skills and talents are transferrable to this sales role we are advertising.  The cover letter can explain how the hiring company will benefit from acquiring the candidate’s skills.  The cover letter is even stronger when the skills are directly correlated to the desired attributes listed in the ad.

I know, it sounds old-fashioned and overly-simple, but it is still effective.  Unfortunately, the cover letter/email is an under-utilized tool in the strong salesperson’s toolbox.

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