3 Ways The Brain Handles Info

This article is from Eye on Sales with some key points about how our brains handle information (emphasis mine):

It all goes back to how your brain is wired to work. Despite how advanced our technology has become, the brain inside your head is brilliantly primitive.

There are really only three ways that our brain handles any information that it receives:

If it’s boring or expected, the brain ignores it.

If it’s too complex, the brain dramatically summarizes it.

If it’s threatening, the brain makes you fight or run.

So what you’re saying doesn’t really matter.

Especially if the brain in the person listening to you is feeling threatened or fatigued or flat-out bored. You lose.

So how do you change this? How do you say what needs to be said in a way that gets the right people to listen without their brain killing your sales speak a few millisecond after it leaves your lips?

(It’s certainly not easy. And it probably feels awkward at first.)

But here are a few ideas to help you manage brain parts and conquer better;

  1. Ask more questions than you make statements.
  2. Don’t pretend to be somebody that you’re not.
  3. If things “don’t make sense”, say so.
  4. Talk about the “elephant in the room” first.
  5. Look between the lines for personal issues.
  6. Care on the inside.

In terms of successful selling, you cannot overstate the importance of the first bullet listed above.

Rapport Sells More

This is one of those topics I always believe people inherently know…and then I come across a robotic salesperson.  Apparently not everyone is aware of this truth.  This quick post from Selling Power speaks to the importance of rapport-building and successful selling (and I lifted the title from them).

A quick refresher:

1. Match your customer’s style. Pay attention to how your customer prefers to communicate and get in step. Does your customer prefer to get right down to business or warm up by engaging in some small talk? What kind of a sense of humor does your customer have? If your customer talks fast and loud, you certainly won’t build rapport by talking slow and soft.

So true and yet many salespeople miss it.  Matching, not mimicking, your prospect is an important tool on a first call.  It is simple to do if you pay attention to their communication style.  The implication here is that you have to listen to them which means you are not talking.  Most of the communication trouble I see when riding along with salespeople is their desire to simply show up and throw up.  We live by this rule – if you are talking, you are not selling.

It Is All About Communication

From today’s Herman Trend report (emphasis mine):

The other highlights of the study are fascinating: the least happy of the generations is the Baby Boomers. They expressed the strongest discontent with their employers and the greatest frustration that their loyalty and hard work have been neither recognized nor rewarded. “Almost one-third (32 percent) of Baby Boomers surveyed say a lack of trust in leadership is a top turnover trigger—the highest ranking by any workforce generation.”

Employers are most vulnerable to lose their Generation X workers. Lack of career progress is their top exit trigger (65 percent). Only 28 percent of Gen X employees surveyed expect to stay. This intention to leave is a clear signal to employers to expect a significant exodus by employees viewed as future leaders.

For the Millennials, their employers’ commitment to "corporate responsibility/volunteerism" was very important. Millennials are also nearly three times more likely to say a "fun work environment" is important than their Baby Boomers counterparts.

On the other hand, “employees who plan to stay with their current employers (35 percent) say their companies have strong talent programs, characterized by clear career paths, leadership development initiatives, trust and confidence in corporate leadership, superior programs to retain top talent, and effective communication.”

Did you catch that last topic?  Communication – this is almost a free move for any company, but it requires commitment.  The Gen X’ers are a generally skeptical bunch as I can attest – I am one.  I value all of the programs listed, yet it all starts with effective communication within the company and specifically within the manager-employee relationship.

Texting And Lightning

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

-Mark Twain

If you would, allow me to speculate a bit.  I’ve been involved in volunteer activities with high school students over the past 2 years so I have become a reluctant texter (is that a word?).  I learned quickly that their preferred method of communication is texting.  I didn’t even have texting on my cell service when I started.  I now have unlimited texting out of necessity.

I tell you this in regards to a concern I see in this younger generation.  I’ve read many pieces about how the younger generation uses text shorthand in formal communications, e.g. cover letters.  That is obviously a great concern.  However, I see a more disconcerting trend – a limited vocabulary.

The modern youth needs to condense their communication into a limited number of characters for texting, Twitter, etc.  An adverse side effect of this constraint is their condensed vocabulary.  Common, monosyllabic words are their preferred lexicon.  The impact is a rather limited vocabulary that is exposed in a long-format writing piece…for instance, an essay.

This limitation is apparent when you work with these teens.  Their word selection (use of adjectives especially), syntax, punctuation and idea structure are lacking.  They have a desire to respond in a succinct manner with common words absent any punctuation beyond a period.  The exploration for new words seems lacking in their approach.  Hence, the wonderful, aforementioned quote from Mark Twain.

I see this subtle regression in writing skills becoming a widespread issue in the next generation of professionals.  The ability to write effectively may be moving onto the endangered skills list right before our eyes.

I mentioned in a previous post about a client who had a salesperson who simply could not convey cogent thoughts through his writing.  The owner paid – paid – for an English tutor to help develop this salesperson’s writing ability.  It was an abject failure and the owner eventually fired the salesperson.  My hope is that this scenario is an uncommon anecdote.

If you know of young people working their way through the education system, encourage them to expand their vocabulary and refine their writing skills.  This much-needed ability will serve them, and us, well as they move into the workforce.

Disappearing Telecommuters

Saleshq.com offers up tricks for telecommuters in this article.  There are some solid points like this:

5. Communication

It’s very easy to forget the outside world when you work from home. While you do get to avoid the intricacies of corporate politics, it also means that you have to be your own advocate.

Make sure there are multiple ways for your boss and colleagues to contact you. Check your email frequently, and respond as immediately as you can. Keep your phone at hand, and make sure you call if there’s an office meeting. An instant messaging service works well for open communication if something changes last minute. For more long distance projects, make use of free video conferencing tools like Skype.

This fact is mission-critical.  One of my customers has a remote salesperson who works in the same small town as the office, but she telecommutes.  I’m not sure why, but that is a topic for another post.  Anyway, one of the things she has expertly established is her lack of availability during the work day.  What I mean is that the office can never get her on the phone during the day.  Cell phone, home phone…it doesn’t matter, their calls always end up in voicemail.

I find this fact appalling, but my customer tolerates it.  What I believe this does is free her up to do other activities during goal time for selling.  The office has now become accustomed to not reaching her on the phone so they think nothing of it.

If you manage telecommuters, you must have a communication channel (cell, text, IM, etc.) that always allows access to them.

I Don’t See The Point Of Twitter

I know the Twitterheads are going to flame this, but I have to agree with Ricky Gervais:

But after composing only five Tweets, Gervais gave up on January 9, telling his 13,000 followers he was going to stop his updates because “I don’t see the point.” He followed up with an explanation on his blog, calling Twitter “undignified.” (As opposed, say, to David Brent dance.)

“I just don’t get it, I’m afraid,” Gervais wrote. “I’m sure it’s fun as a networking device for teenagers but there’s something a bit undignified about adults using it. Particularly celebrities who seem to be showing off by talking to each other in public.”

I have not invested much time into Twitter so I have probably a comparable amount of knowledge regarding it as Mr. Gervais.

Flame on.

The Straight-Up Truth

These are skittish times, aren’t they?  I have seen this among reps and myself – every little item is scrutinized.  Communication, email, reports…I find myself looking for subtle clues in all of them.  Is a layoff coming?  How bad is it?  What is going to happen next?

These are not productive thoughts.  As a manager, how do you quell these fears?  There isn’t one move, tool or approach that will cure it, but a concerted effort will help to minimize your team’s anxiety.

Selling Power offers up an article that has some feel-good points that I question.  However, there is something in the article that caught my eye:

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your mother probably told you this growing up and it’s just as important today. Manning says she often sees managers make the mistake of promising a desired outcome rather than acknowledging uncertainty. For instance, don’t tell your staff there won’t be any layoffs at your company because you can’t possibly make that guarantee. “Make no promises,” says Manning. “Don’t build up false expectations because that just creates more fear.” Instead, be honest about what you know, even when – especially when – the news isn’t good. Your reps would rather have the hard truth than a pleasant lie.

Those last two lines are straight-up truth.  The best way to allay these fears is to be forthright with your team.  I believe managers often error in thinking their employees cannot handle the truth of the present situation.  This is a leadership mistake that creates distance between the manager and the employee.

I will close with the next suggestion from the article – it is a good one:

Start a blog. Blogging is a great way to keep your people updated because it has an informal, conversational feel and reps can check it at their convenience. Manning says she knows of several CEOs who are having “tremendous success” with blogging right now, using it as a vehicle to keep employees posted on what’s going on, answering their questions and correcting rumors. Sales managers, she says, could expand those topics to include sales successes, news about products and so on.

Never Out Of Office

I’m traveling to Palm Springs, CA today for a trade show.  Let me just say that a California trade show is a blessed thing to a Minnesotan in February.  Anyway, I didn’t put an email message saying I will be out of the office.

Why even use that feature in Outlook?

Here’s my rationale, I receive all of my emails on my cell phone.  They are pushed to me so I actually get notified the moment they arrive.  I have my laptop with me and the hotel has wireless internet which is to be expected these days.  I may be physically out of the office, but I am still connected.

I am never truly out of the office.

One thing that has changed drastically in sales today is the fact that customers and prospects will not wait for me to get back in the office.  Business moves faster than that.  Companies operate on a JIT basis.  Delaying something 3 days today is similar to 3 weeks just a couple of decades ago.

Now that I have written this post, I am certain that I will get nailed by a few people (Benidt, I suspect) for my sloth-like email response times.

Death Of The Fax

Just a simple thought here – when will the fax machine go away?  I talk to prospects and collect their contact information for our CRM.  I had the thought, “Why do I ask for their fax number?”

Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I sent a fax to a prospect or customer.  I scan it in and email it…again, that way I have a record of it in our CRM software.

My outside number is 5 years until it goes down to the level of the typewriter.

Sloppy Speech

Is there anything more annoying than listening to someone use non-words in their speech?  Well, there probably is, but this speech habit is a real pet peeve of mine.  Saleshq.com provides a great article that calls out different sloppy speech habits.  The article focuses on interview etiquette, but these patterns are applicable to all sales situations.

One of the suggestions:

3. Grammatical Errors:

The interviewer may question your education when you use incorrect grammar or slang. Expressions such as “ain’t” “she don’t,” “me and my friend” and “so I goes to him” aren’t appropriate. Be sure you speak in complete sentences and that tenses agree. The interview is not the venue for regional expressions or informality.

Interviews and sales calls require proper speech.  I think these types of errors occur in interviews because candidates either attempt to be too casual or they go to the other extreme and attempt to use the Queen’s English.  Salespeople often do the same thing during important sales calls.

Quick tip: “irregardless” is not grammatically correct (I hear it frequently used).

Lastly, there is this:

5. Speed Talking:

While everybody is a bit anxious during an interview, you don’t want your information to fly by like a speeding bullet. A rapid speaking rate is difficult to follow, and speed talkers are seen as nervous. Slow down your racing heart by doing some breathing exercises before the interview. To avoid rushing, listen to the question, and then count two beats in your head before answering. When you finish a sentence, count two beats again before continuing. Don’t be afraid of silence. Pausing is an effective communication technique. The interviewer needs a few seconds to process what you just said anyway.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but we once interviewed a sales manager candidate who spoke like an auctioneer.  Halfway through the interview he said, “I know I speak fast, but it is slow in my head.”

We pursued and placed a different candidate.