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?
From the Harvard Business Review Tip of the Day email:
Most companies spend more on hiring in sales than they do in any other part of the organization. With an average annual turnover rate of 25 to 30%, and direct replacement costs ranging from $75,000 to $300,000, there’s a big opportunity for improvement. Here are a few places to start (emphasis mine):
- Focus on behaviors. A primary cause of turnover is poor job fit. Consider ramping up assessment tools, simulations, and interviewing techniques to help identify the right people. Or, try temporary positions to assess people on the job before offering a full-time position.
- Be clear about the relevant “experience” needed. Make sure that a candidate’s previous experience really aligns with your own market, geography, culture, customer groups, and technologies.
- Conduct on-going talent assessments. Salespeople need to constantly adapt their own skills to changing markets and buyer motivations, and managers need to vigilantly track those skills.
If you make only 1 adjustment to your sales hiring process, make the change to using the right sales assessment. I’ve had the opportunity to work with sales assessment tools for the past 15 years and the reason they are effective is this – they neutralize hiring bias. Every one of us has natural biases towards ourselves whether we are aware of it or not. This bias can corrupt a hiring process especially if we are sitting across from a sales candidate with highly-developed people skills.
The beauty of assessments is that they are objective. When you use them earlier in the hiring process, you maintain objectivity longer which is fundamentally important. The hiring decision will ultimately come down to a human-based decision which introduces bias. There is not avoiding that fact. The key is to limit the bias to candidates that you have objectively assessed and are certain that they have the right blend of behaviors, skills, motivations and aptitudes to be successful in your specific sales role.
If you want to learn more about our unique process, please contact us here.
From Monster.com, I doubt you would guess what is number 1…Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers. Seriously, there are 13% more of them now than 1 year ago. Number 2 you might actually get – Registered Nurses which makes sense with the aging Baby Boomer generation.
Sales Managers made the list, but you will have to follow the link to find out at what spot they landed.
If you have done some level of interviewing, you have certainly come across some interesting characters. Monster.com highlights a few:
Wearing a tuxedo to an interview. I told him to dress nice and professional for his interview, but he definitely went overboard and crossed the line of dressing business professional. Needless to say, the hiring manager also thought it was a crazy move and the candidate did not get the job.
I caught a candidate lying in his resume. He had made up so much of his previous experience that he then forgot a company name where he said he had worked. The candidate actually asked me to look at the resume I had so he could see what he wrote.
This is one I have encountered a few times in sales interviews:
I had a candidate incessantly tell me they were “the best in the market” over and over again. This phrase was added to every sentence as a punctuation mark. It made for a very awkward interview. Confidence is good; arrogance is not.
Then there is this old favorite from CareerBuilder:
Candidate answered cell phone and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a “private” conversation.
Amazing how unaware some people are in today’s world.
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.
I would answer no. I have the opportunity to look at many resumes on any given day and there is a definite sea-change in the job jumping area. Millennials are far less loyal to their employers than any generation before them. In fact, I would say “job” jumping isn’t accurate, they are actually “skill” jumping. These employees are often looking for personal skill development and once they sense they have tapped out their growth curve in their current role, they leave.
I spend a fair amount of time explaining this skill jumping behavior to old-school hiring managers. Companies must have a plan for ongoing development of their Millennial workforce otherwise they will look for skill development at a different company.
This somewhat new trend is well documented in this Harvard Business Review article. From the article:
Sullivan says that employers have become more accepting of brief periods of employment. As many as 32% of employers expect job-jumping. “It’s become part of life,” says Sullivan. In fact, people are most likely to leave their jobs after their first, second, or third work anniversaries. Millennials are especially prone to short stays at jobs. Sullivan’s research shows that 70% quit their jobs within two years. So the advice to stick it out at a job for the sake of your resume is just no longer valid.
Did you catch that…2 years! I suspect that fact is due to companies being slow to provide development paths for these new employees. The days of pension-earning careers with one company are long gone.
The Millennials are skewing the tenure number lower, but other generations are catching on also:
The average length of time a worker stays in a job these days is 4.6 years.
Have a plan to grow your direct reports’ individual skill sets. Put milestones out there for them to achieve. Have a plan and share it with them. If you need help, we can help.
Maybe I am aging faster than I will admit, but I have seen a trend in the professional workplace that is unsettling.
Decorum. As defined by Webster, it is “correct or proper behavior that shows respect and good manners.”
One of the things I tell hiring managers is that the initial candidate interview is as good as it will get. The candidates’ behavior, manners, etiquette, communication, etc. will never exceed their level as observed in that first interview. Therefore, the candidate’s decorum should be exemplary in that interview to the point where it is memorable.
Sadly, I simply am not seeing this exemplary decorum nearly as much as I used to 15 years ago. Perhaps as a society we are simply becoming more crass. Nonetheless, the interview should be treated as hallowed ground and respected in such a way that crassness does not permeate it.
I have noticed this change not only in the younger generation, but also the Boomer generation. I have observed aging leaders, who have become out of touch with the younger generations, find a connection (earning laughs) by being crassly provocative.
Younger generations communicate in…how shall I say…in an overly casual manner. Cursing comes to mind and I have experienced it an multiple phone interviews recently. The expletives have come out in face-to-face interviews also. I’m not talking about shockingly blue language, but still language that simply does not fit in a high-level sales position interview.
Professional salespeople need to possess an impressive level of professionalism, or decorum, when approaching prospects in today’s business world. A lack of this decorum being exhibited in the initial interview, when they are allegedly at their best, is a big red flag for me when considering whom to move to the next level in the hiring process.
Experience is a tricky component to successful sales hiring in that it is often overvalued. Don’t get me wrong, it is important, but you never want to overvalue it. The reason is that you can teach new salespeople about your product or service a lot easier than you can teach them how to sell. A sports analogy (I know, often overused) – it is far easier to teach a football wide receiver what routes to run in your offense than it is to teach them how to run a 4.3 40 yard dash. Some will simply never run a 4.3. This is why talent is far more valuable to successful hiring.
This Entrepreneur.com article discusses this point in clear terms:
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention experience, and that is for good reason. When you find a great talent who is passionate about what your organization is doing, experience doesn’t matter. Great people can decipher what they need to learn in order to be successful. Twenty five years in the same industry or with the same company is not necessarily a good thing. It’s much harder to unlearn what you know then learn what you need to know.
Agreed. The author discusses talent in terms of attitude, competency and mindset in an intriguing manner. As they say, read the entire thing.
We run a systematic hiring process for sales positions. We have refined the process over the past 14 years and have it optimized (even though when we started we were writing newspaper employment ads!). As part of any hiring process, you have to receive resumes of respondents to the ad. This is where things are changing.
A new trend I am seeing is resumes with copy and paste information from job descriptions, websites, etc. What I mean is candidates do not take the time to write about their skills and experience in their current or previous roles. They simply use web/marketing copy that they paste into their resume. I have also seen many resumes with the job description information pasted into their experience.
“You will call on mid-market companies to sell our cloud-based service.”
That is someone’s experience for their current job. Amazing. What is worse is that this position is selling marketing services.
I like to remind hiring managers that this is the best the candidate has to offer. The interview process should reveal the best of what they have to offer, from writing to phone discussions to follow-up. If their best in this phase isn’t good enough for the role, do not expect improvement if you add them to your sales team.