Sometimes successfully closing a sale comes down to slight advantage.

One of the overlooked aspects of selling is communication, specifically nonverbal communication.  I get the chance to discuss this topic with salespeople often…and often it is overlooked.  This article provides a good reinforcement to nonverbal communication’s importance.

Consider this fact:

…there are three elements that account for how well we receive someone’s message and they impact us differently:

  • 7 percent words

  • 38 percent tone of voice

  • 55 percent body language

I’ve read articles recently that bring up these topics in different forums.  Smile while you record your voicemail greeting, tell your story to your prospects to connect on a personal level and measure your breathing when talking.  The focus of most salespeople is words, but there is this larger opportunity to gain an edge using the nonverbal channels.

There are 4 items in the article that the author recommends to improve your sales effectiveness.

  1. Fix your posture.
  2. Use hand gestures.
  3. Focus on facial expressions.
  4. Speak clearly.

I agree with all of them – this is low-hanging fruit for all salespeople.  The most important of the four suggestions is number 3 – understanding facial expressions.

From the article:

…her team found out that high-performing salespeople scored almost twice as high on the study’s metrics on reading facial expressions compared to low performers.

This ability is measured in our assessments.  Empathetic Outlook is the ability to read other’s expressions, to understand what their emotional state is without words.  This ability is critical for successful selling even in phone-based positions.  The importance of this ability cannot be overstated.  Salespeople without this ability have a tin ear, sometimes robotic approach to prospecting and qualifying.  In the worst case, they come across as cocky.

The tools we use help you know a salesperson’s ability in these nonverbal skills.

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Maybe, according to this article in Entrepreneur.  Check out this statistic:

…experts say there’s almost one psychopath for every 100 people, with rates shooting up in the workplace, especially in leadership, thanks to psychopaths’ ease with manipulation. Research finds that nearly 4 percent of corporate CEOs are psychopaths, and this rate is nearly doubled among middle managers. (Shockingly, the share of psychopaths among middle managers is nearly as high as the share of psychopaths in medium security prisons.)

I have worked for many bosses with whom I would question their psychopathic tendencies.  I suppose that term deserves definition from within the article.

A psychopath stands out, Woodward says, thanks to a “blend of interpersonal, lifestyle and behavioral deficits” that they can mask, at least for a period of time. Woodward explains, “They come across as very charming and very gregarious. But beneath that veneer lies a lack of remorse, an amorality and a real callousness.”

Perhaps more of you are with me now!  There is a commonality here that we often uncover using our assessments.  Two things often stick out to people – the high D (Dominance) style and a low empathetic ability.

Dominance is from the DISC and is described in these terms:

Results-oriented, argumentative, likes to win, may try to overpower you, wants to move quickly, may be unprepared, direct

You can see where I am going with this topic.  Everyone has encountered a strong D personality.  I am willing to bet that most people have encountered them in a leadership role…as their boss.  This isn’t a bad thing.  High D’s have a natural ability to tackle big topics and to get things done.  These abilities often drive them into leadership roles where they are able to succeed (often in a domineering way).

The issue develops when you have a High D leader with low empathetic ability.  Imagine the brash, hard-charging High D leader who seems devoid of sensitivity.  Now we have the makings of a psychopath!

Ok, maybe not.  Instead, it may be that we simply have a unique behavioral style that tends to have an acerbic quality to someone with a different style.  This topic, communicating between different styles, is where I spend a good portion of my days.  In most instances, the simple recognition of a differing style leads people to better communication.

And I would hope a lower rate of psychopath diagnoses in the workplace.

Contact us today if you would like to learn more about our assessment services.

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:


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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

This list will make you cringe, especially if any of these phrases are in your common parlance.

1. “You look tired.”

2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight.”

3. “You were too good for her anyway.”

4. “You always…” or “You never…”

5. “You look great for your age.”

6. “As I said before…”

7. “Good luck.”

8. “It’s up to you.” or “Whatever you want.”

9. “Well at least I’ve never _______.”

Ha! How good is that list?  As a father of teenagers, I am constantly correcting them for using #4.  I was a little surprised by #7 so I’ll close with the author’s explanation (which is a good one):

This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed.

Instead say: “I know you have what it takes.” This is better than wishing her luck because suggesting that she has the skills needed to succeed provides a huge boost of confidence. You’ll stand out from everyone else who simply wishes her luck.