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.

An Internet Minute

I saw this on LinkedIn and through it was fascinating:

Internet Minute

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.

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.

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 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.

9 Phrases Emotionally Intelligent People Don’t Use

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.

Forming, Storming And Norming Teams

That is how teambuilding occurs according to the Tuckman model and I agree.  Assessing entire sales teams provides me an inside view at teams and how they function and this model plays out consistently.

This article covers many interesting topics with a focus on creativity killers.  Creativity is difficult to measure or assess, but there are things a sales leader can do to help foster creativity.  From the article (emphasis mine):

It’s easy to look at models like that and think that cohesion and friendliness should be the ultimate goal. But surprisingly, when it comes to creativity, the best teams fight a little (or even a lot). Structured, task-oriented conflict can be a signal that new ideas are being submitted to the group and tested. If you team always agrees, that might suggest that people are self-censoring their ideas, or worse, not generating any new ideas at all. Research suggests that teams that forgo traditional brainstorming rules and debate over ideas as they’re presented end up with more and better ideas. As a leader, it may seem like your job is to break up and fights, but don’t be afraid to act as a referee instead — allowing the fight over ideas to unfold, but making sure it stays fair and doesn’t get personal.

Exactly.  The best sales teams I assess have a little bit of fight to them.  They are not cookie-cutter clones that generate some sycophantic affirmation to every new idea offered up in a team meeting.  No, instead they tend to have a rollicking good go regarding new ideas.  They test them, challenge them, argue about them.

The important component to this “storming” team is a sales leader who actively referees the discussion.  These leaders are open, thoughtful and decisive in handling brainstorming sessions.  I have had the luxury of sitting through these meetings at customer conference rooms and I am always amazed to watch a strong leader empower his or her team to challenge the status quo and, at times, attack sacred cows of the organization.

If you are looking to develop your creativity-fostering skills, I would strongly encourage you to read the entire article.

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.