Here is a problem I have seen developing in sales over the past 10 years – shorter attention spans in salespeople having to deal with longer sales cycles.

First, some background from a quick American Management Association:

Whenever I teach students, I tell them, “Your chance of being successful has gone up exponentially because all you’ve got to do now is actually try to pay attention for more than five minutes.”

Ok, that is disconcerting.  You can see where this is going.  The integration of the Internet into our lives has provided prospects with a unique ability to research your company, and more importantly, your solutions.  We often talk about how prospects approach your sales team today.  The prospects have probably been to your website, at a minimum, and have pursued social media information regarding your company and solution.  The prospects are well-informed.

The control of information used to be a tool of the salesperson but no longer.  Instead, the salesperson has to focus on being a guide to the prospect.  The Internet’s ability to dispense information has moved many transactional sales to automated orders.  Think Amazon here:  people do their own searching, determine the “best” solution, and then place their order without any human interaction.

Salespeople now have to nurture these types of sales.  More often, they have to move towards complex sales and their longer sales cycles.  There is a certain type of salesperson who struggles with this long-term, relationship sale…the classic High-D hunter.

High D’s are quick-pace, aggressive and, well, not relationship-driven.  They are task-driven and short which makes them powerful in new business development roles.  It does not make them powerful at relationship sales.  If more sales are moving to a relationship base, what will happen with these classic hunters?

I think we are observing a fundamental shift in sales.  The classic hunter is either adapting to a modified hunter with relationship-sales focus or they are slowly exiting the sales world.  I am seeing this first-hand during phone screens and during face-to-face interviews.  The High D hunters are learning to temper their drive to mold into the modern day sales world.  Those that successfully make this transformation will survive this new world.

This Entrepreneur article hits on topic you may have overlooked.  What sign-off do you use for your emails?  Did you know there are different levels of etiquette?  Not kidding, there are certain formalities to consider.

An example:

The salutation: “Best”
Bates: “Best” is colloquial, but fine for someone you know. “Best wishes” or “Best regards” would be better for business.
Kerr: This is another acceptable sign-off, especially if you’re using it with someone you know really well.

That is my preferred sign-off, but I am currently rethinking it.  Here is the one I really dislike:

The salutation: “Ciao”
Bates: This isn’t for business, except for fashion, art or real Italians.
Kerr: “Ciao” should only be used for close buddies or work pals. It’s not appropriate for business purposes.

“Ciao” is far too pretentious for me, but I do see it on occasion.  The article is a quick read and I recommend you check it out…your preferred sign-off is probably listed.

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If you have been in leadership for any length of time, you have had to deal with employee conflicts amongst your team.  Some of the issues are trivial, others substantial, but what do you do to fix these problems? 

The source of most conflict in the workplace flows from one specific area – Motivations.

We assess motivations as part of our tools in helping companies hire and evaluate talent.  Motivations are an interesting aspect of our psyches.  They are deeply seated and have the power to drive behaviors, decision-making, and more.  The difficulty of motivations is that they are difficult to determine from simply interacting with someone.  Maybe if you work with someone for a handful of years you could approximate their motivational pattern.

All of us have 6 common motivators of different intensities – you can learn about them here.  The conflict in the workplace occurs when you have two people with opposite patterns.  For instance, if you have a high Theoretical on your team, they will always be looking for new ways of doing things.  Conversely, if you have a high Traditional on that same team, the Traditional is going to push back against changing the status quo.  At some point, there is a good chance they will be involved in a decision where each of them will come at a solution from completely different viewpoints.

This contradictory viewpoint is where the conflict materializes. It often spills out to statements about changing things for no apparent reason, or you fight all forms of change.  There are others, but you see where this conflict takes root and now the conflict grows.

The solution is for each of them to know the other’s motivational pattern.  Once elucidated, each person understands the basis of the other’s decision making.  Now each person can appreciate the starting point of the other person’s perspective without having the decision process devolve into an argumentative state.  That appreciation often leads to successful, thoughtful decisions which have more buy-in from the different people.

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The DISC assessment provides volumes of invaluable information for dealing with others.  One key aspect is understanding the pace of others as it can create tension in any office…or sales situation.

There are certain aspects to pace that are specific to individuals including whether they focus on people or tasks first.  Are they detailed or rapid fire?  What drives the pace they prefer?

TTI provides a terrific description of how the differences in styles presents a difference in pace.  A few, quick takeaways:

The D of DISC is called Dominance. A person possessing this behavioral style will tend to be fast paced a majority of the time. Direct in their communication, a high-D may show signs of impatience when things are moving at a slower pace.

The I stands for Influence, and that’s because it’s what this person does. The I is drawn to people and loves to communicate. Fast-paced like the D, the I tends to communicate less directly, often employing softening statements to keep the conversation more personal. This is because while the D focuses on the task, the I’s main concern is the person.

Those possessing a Steadiness behavioral style favor a slow and steady pace. In fact, they crave it. If a D or I were to barge into a room and start just talking, they would likely catch the S off-guard making them uncomfortable.

The Compliance behavioral style is task-oriented like the D, but in much less of a hurry. A noted perfectionist, the C wants to take the time to ensure accuracy in order to avoid leaving out any important details.

These are just quick points from the blog post.  I recommend you read the entire thing.

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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 Inc.com 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:

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?

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.