Reading Microexpressions A Key To Sales?

In a word…yes.  We spend a fair amount of time working with salespeople to access their empathy and read the prospect in a qualifying situation.  This ability is one of the keys to all successful selling.  This article from Harvard Business Review provides a thorough breakdown of this topic.  A first pull quote from the article:

In my work as a body language researcher and instructor, I’ve long theorized that one of the key differences between exceptional negotiators or salespeople and those who are merely average is the ability to read these microexpressions, gauge visceral reactions to ideas or proposals, then strategically steer them toward a preferred outcome.

And why does this matter in sales?  To put it in gambling terms, exceptional salespeople can read the “tells” on a prospect’s face while qualifying them.  This ability is one of the reasons we measure a salesperson’s empathetic aptitudes with our assessments.

Prospects almost instinctively raise their guard when dealing with a salesperson.  This guarded behavior becomes even more potent during a face-to-face sales meeting.  However, there are some tells that are difficult, if not impossible, to hide.  An astute salesperson, with strong people-reading abilities, will be able to pick up on the subtle signals being broadcast by the prospect.

Back to the HBR article and this interesting compilation of somewhat subtle tells:

microexpression-collage-2-1200x675

It seems easy to me to sit here and study the nuances of the faces to confirm the description listed below each one.  However, is a sales situation, this microexpression may be briefly displayed.  The salesperson has only a small fraction of time to deduce the prospect’s reaction.

From the article (emphasis mine):

As you can see, it’s quite easy to recognize the meaning behind the expression on a still photo. In a real-life situation, however, when the stakes are high and the microexpression  lasts for as little as one 25th of a second, it’s a different game entirely.

Exactly.  This is why strong salespeople possess the interpersonal skills and aptitudes to read these quick expressions.  You can assess for this ability using our tools.  How would this ability impact your sales team as you grow in the future?

Do Not Clone Your Style

This Forbes article addresses one of the most important aspects of an interview – the communication style alignment between the hiring manager and the candidate.  The article is written from the candidate’s perspective, but offers great insights into the hiring manager’s mindset.

A supervisor isn’t going to hire someone that he doesn’t believe he can work with. Managers come in all shapes and sizes–some are hands-off and expect their employees to do what they need to do with little or no supervision. Others like to receive daily updates, religiously review timecards and schedule regular check-in meetings with their staff.

This style topic is important in hiring, but should never be the deciding factor in a sales hire.  The reason is this – one of the worst hiring mistakes is for the hiring manager to clone themselves in their hiring.  The outcome of “clone hiring” is a team that shares the same communication approach in the marketplace and, more importantly, contains the same group weaknesses.

The strongest teams have a wide variety of communication styles to match the wide variety of prospects’ styles.  You can learn more about styles here.

Best Notes Are Hand-Written?

This is a good Monday morning topic – note taking.  I am a Microsoft Surface user and happily so.  It is an amazing tool that allows you to switch to tablet mode and take hand-written notes.  But let me add this bit from Harvard Business Review (emphasis mine):

Few people bring a pen and notebook to meetings anymore. Instead of taking notes by hand, more and more of us take them on a laptop or tablet. This change makes sense: Digital devices just seem more convenient, plus they let you multitask during the meeting. But research has found that there are real benefits to taking notes by hand. Studies have shown that typing encourages mindless, verbatim transcription of what you’re hearing, but writing by hand helps us take both fewer and better notes. Longhand’s slower pace forces us to record ideas more succinctly and in our own words, which boosts our ability to recall those ideas later. After all, notes should help us quickly remember the most important points, not the entire meeting. So try bringing a pen and notebook to your next meeting – your memory will thank you.

You can see where I am going with this…you can take notes on a tablet.  And those notes are not digitally stored on your device so you never have to find the paper you used for your notes.  Anyway, I did find the part about typing to be most interesting, and true.

Don’t be a stenographer.

Write succinctly in your own words.  That is sage advice to follow beyond note taking.

One Third Of CEO’s Are Worthless In Sales

Those aren’t my words but rather the findings from a Selling Power survey.  From the article:

A recent Selling Power online survey found that 29 percent of sales leaders judged their CEO useless when it comes to creating a sale.

Almost one third and I think I have worked for all of them!  The savvy sales CEO is a rare bird indeed.  Of course there is more to the article than just this survey.  The author focuses on the customer experience as seen through your salesperson representing your company in the market.  This representation is critical in making a successful sales hire – you have to envision the salesperson selling for your company.  Will they represent your company well?  Do they convey the right image, manners, professionalism?  These are not trifle matters when dealing with sales.

The same can be said for you CEOs.  The company’s culture flows from the CEO downward into the entire team.  CEOs who undervalue sales often struggle with teams that follow suit.  I’ve seen these companies first-hand…they have an engineering culture, a finance culture, a manufacturing culture…everything except a sales culture (which I would argue is the most important of them all).

I leave you with a prime example from the article:

A CEO whose company credo states, "We believe in candor and open communications" complained about how hard it is to communicate with salespeople. He said, "I can’t rely on their forecasts, I can’t rely on their data in our CRM system, and I can’t make strategic decisions based on their input." What happens when the CEO responds to salespeople with doubt or skepticism? The CEO’s doubt impacts the salesperson’s experience with the company, which inevitably echoes back to the customer.

Simple Writing Tips

Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Day covers 7 common writing mistakes.  This may be the most helpful thing you read today:

  • Affect/Effect: Affect is a verb; effect is a noun. It affected him. The effect was startling.
  • All Right/Alright: Although alright is gaining ground, the correct choice is still all right.
  • A Lot: A lot is two words, not one. Allot means “to parcel out.”
  • Between You and I: Nope. Between you and me is the correct phrase.
  • Complement/Compliment: Things that work well together complement each other. Compliments are a form of praise.
  • Farther/Further: Farther is for physical distance; further is for metaphorical distance. How much farther? Our plan can’t go any further.
  • Lay/Lie: Subjects lie down; objects are laid down. He should lie down. Lay the reports there.

Make Time To Daydream

I’m not kidding.  From the Harvard Business Review:

Thanks to our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, it’s easy to be working all the time. But our devices can actually make us less productive by interfering with an important mental process: daydreaming. To be effective, our brains need opportunities to be “off,” which is hard when we’re constantly taking in new information through our devices. And research has found that letting our minds wander facilitates creativity and long-term thinking. If we’re facing a challenge that needs new ideas, we’re more likely to find some if our minds drift away from the problem for a while. So the next time your mind starts to wander, let it. Don’t check your favorite website or your email. Instead, walk to a window and think about the people and cars going by, close your eyes and notice the sounds around you, or go for a short walk. And remember: leave your device behind.

Don’t Ask This Interview Question

I haven’t heard of this one but it is intriguing:

To boost the chances of preventing that hiring misstep, there’s one easy tactic everyone should take in an interview: Stop asking candidates to evaluate their own abilities.

Here’s why. Underskilled candidates consistently overrate their abilities, and more skilled candidates consistently underrate their abilities. There’s even a name for this: the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychological research finding that the poorest performers are the least aware of their own incompetence.

So I’m immediately left questioning why?  Are highly-skilled salespeople awash in humility?  I don’t think so and neither does the author.

Top performers set higher standards for their own performance, so they judge themselves more harshly than low performers.

Bullseye.  I couldn’t agree more with that statement.  We see this effect in our objective assessments often with top performers.  An interesting aspect is that they often have lower self-esteem.  It isn’t that they are shrinking violets…to the contrary, they set high standards and always strive to reach higher.  They have a drive that says I could have done better or I can do more.  It is counter-intuitive to me and took quite some time to understand this effect.

Don’t be put-off by a sales candidate who doesn’t project a booming confidence.  Trust the assessment and dig down to find out what motivates them to succeed.

Contact us if you want to learn more about how our assessments can drastically improve your sales hiring.

The Psychology Of Color

This is a little off the curve, but it’s Friday and I thought it was interesting.  From a MyeVideo blog post:

Color psychology, apart from studying physiological reactions to colors, also studies the cultural aspect of color use – the traditional deep-seated patterns in people’s minds that differ across the globe. Thanks to symbolism and psychology, we can target specific audiences that a certain product is meant for, thus achieving more meaningful sales results.

So the money question is what do the color represent?  Here they are:

Red – excitement, strength, passion, speed, danger

Blue – trust, belonging, freshness

Yellow – warmth, happiness, joy, cowardice

Orange – playfulness, warmth, liveliness

Green – nature, freshness, growth, abundance

Purple – classiness, spirituality, dignity

Pink – gentleness, kindness, safeness

Gold – prestige, luxury

Silver – prestige, coldness

White – moral purity, holiness, innocence, youth, gentleness

Black – sophistication, elegance, mystery

The Most Important Trait In An Interview

Trustworthiness.  It is true.  I have sat through many interviews where I simply did not trust, or believe, what the candidate was telling me.  The Harvard Business Review tip of the day quickly dissects this point.

The most important thing to get across in an interview is not that you are smart and motivated – it’s that you are trustworthy. Trustworthiness is the fundamental trait that people automatically look for in others. To be seen as trustworthy, you need to demonstrate warmth and competence. Warmth signals that you have good intentions, and competence signals that you can act on those good intentions. If you follow the usual interview advice and only focus on highlighting your competence, the interviewer may end up a bit wary of you. One way to project warmth and competence is by asking your interviewer questions. For example, you might show interest by asking, “So how did you come to be [current role] at [company]?” or “What are you currently working on?” The answers might reveal similarities in your background, experience, or goals, and help you connect.

More Bad Ad Writing

Just saw this title to a sales position ad (emphasis mine):

Regional Sales Manager Job

“Job”…seriously?  Don’t do this in your ads.  Salespeople, especially young salespeople, are looking for opportunities, careers, even a path.  If you promote the position as a job, you will instantly limit the perspective, or upside, of the position.