It’s All in the Details

As a new member of a non-profit board, the chair recently asked all of us to complete the Everything DiSC Work of Leaders assessment. Having completed a number ofbob the builderassessments through the years – Myers Briggs, DiSC, Hermann Brain Dominance, Strengths Finder, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – the results were no big surprise. As Popeye would say, I am what I am. Still, I always find the data helpful in reminding me where I might have blind spots or where certain situations and people may challenge me.

Understanding personality and behavioral styles is a good thing. In business we deal with people. For sellers who understand style differences and how that plays out in sales meetings and communication, it can give them a real leg up when selling. When they adapt their style to give their buyers what they need, deals are won more often than lost. Sell the same way to everyone and the probability of missed opportunities increases.

Let’s say that your style is more high level thinker, optimistic and good at verbal communication but you tend to gloss over the details. If your buyer happens to have a style that requires details to make an informed decision, you need to be prepared to go there. If you try to reassure them through promises that you’ll do whatever it takes, that just will not be enough.

So assessments and understanding human behavior can be helpful in selling and in all interactions with other people.

Where assessments – and they are assessments not tests – become problematic is if other people try to box you in based on your style designation. This assumes that an assessment score is the sum total of who you are as an individual. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Assessments provide big clues as to a person’s dominant way of thinking, behaving or decision making, but even two people with the same style designation are not exactly the same. And, in the case of DiSC, which is based on four quadrants, you may be most dominant in two of them but that doesn’t mean you have no strength in the other areas.

If you don’t know DiSC, let me briefly break down the four quadrants.

  • D=Dominance. Priorities include Results, Action, Competency. Avoid the small talk and focus on demonstrating quick, confident action.
  • i= Influence. Priorities include Enthusiasm, Action, Relationships. Upbeat, outgoing, openness is important. Negativity, too many details or detached people are bothersome.
  • S=Steadiness. Priorities include Sincerity, Relationships, Dependability. Casual and low key, these folks like predictable, harmonious environments.
  • C=Conscientiousness. Priorities include Quality, Competency, Dependability. Quality and high standards is of utmost importance. Be prepared to present logical reasons for decisions.

Curious about my style?

My style is a balanced Di. These are my natural tendencies. Core priorities that shape my leader traits are:

  • Being Pioneering – strategic, big picture thinker, I often see trends ahead of others. Always willing to risk trying something new and untested.
  • Being Commanding – that’s the D in me. I will drive for results. Meeting after meeting but accomplishing very little or nothing at all… makes me nuts.
  • Being Energizing – positive, glass half full gal is who I am. I believe the best in others until they prove me wrong. I tend to focus on what we CAN DO not what someone thinks we can’t.
  • Being Affirming – seeking to include others comes naturally. Collaborative in nature, I like to share and acknowledge the good work of others.

And while these four descriptions are accurate, they are not the total picture of Barb. Though details can sometimes bore me, my style does not mean that I am not a detail oriented person. It means that you wouldn’t want to place me in a role that required detailed work 100% of the time. It drains my energy, and I’m the first to tell you that looking at detailed spreadsheets can make my head spin. But I’m pretty darn detailed when I need to be. If it is important, I do it. To assume otherwise strictly based on my personality type is incorrect and unfair.

What got me thinking about how people make assumptions about each other, especially when you complete assessments and share results among team members, is a comment made at recent meeting. The conversation related to a particular project that I am responsible for and jokingly someone said, its good that so & so is on your team because you aren’t much for details. It was a stupid thing to say. It is untrue and disrespectful. As a practitioner in the field of people development, that individual should know better.

Human beings have so much more depth than any assessment, regardless how detailed or scientifically validated it is, can ever fully describe. In team building, coaching or hiring, use assessments to provide insight about the styles of others, but never assume you know all there is to know about them.

What’s the Purpose?

A simple question, I thought.  I was wrong. I made a mistake. I apologized.

Mistakes happen. It is inevitable. How you handle the gaffe, I believe, is what makes the difference between winners and losers.

Passionately believing in doing right by others, I’m pained to know that someone had a business experience with me today that was anything but wow. And the unfortunate irony is that I had just finished an article for the October issue of Top Sales World. The topic focused on customer experience and the importance of considering what the experience is like for people who will interact with you and  your employees – sales, marketing, service, finance, HR, operations – on behalf of your company brand.

Here’s how I screwed up.

I use a scheduling tool called TimeTrade. Hours of wasted time and hassle when scheduling meetings are mostly a thing of the past. When I agree to meet with someone, I simply send them a link to my calendar. They find an opening that works for us both and book the time. My calendar is automatically updated and all is right with the world. That is until it isn’t.

As a general rule, I do not share the calendar link publicly. A few months back though, the link was included at the bottom of a newsletter with a little blurb that said if you’d like to have a conversation about our social selling services you can use the link to book a meeting. What ensued was some temporary chaos. More than one sales person used that as an opportunity to book time on my calendar. Their objective wasn’t to learn about our services however. Their goal was to try and sell me on theirs. The lack of integrity some sales people display still surprises me.

I learned from that lesson, and honestly, it has been about 5 months since it happened. I had forgotten all about it.

Which leads me to my goof…

Looking at my calendar this morning, I notice that I am scheduled to have a meeting with someone I do not recognize at all. Not a personal contact, we are not connected on LinkedIn, and I do not recall ever meeting the individual. Then again, I meet thousands of people each year and there are thousands more in our database and my social networks. I see so many examples of what sellers should not do that I think my judgment was clouded.  And the message in the schedule confirmation seemed suspicious. Perhaps a classic example of seeing what you expect to see.

What to do?

I didn’t want to be a jerk, but I didn’t want to waste my time either. Been there, done that. I sent a message to the person and asked them to clarify for me the purpose of the call. Without thinking, I went on to say that I typically know the people that I am meeting with.

I offended.

In the moment, asking for clarity about the call’s purpose made sense. After all, it did not say that the meeting was to discuss social selling services. But that is irrelevant. Forgetting that we were the ones who sent the public link in the first place was certainly my first mistake. I compounded my mistake when I assumed that this individual’s intentions were less than honorable. As a result, I did not think more carefully about the words I used, nor did I consider what the question would feel like to the person reading my message.

When you screw up, offer a sincere apology. And, offer to make it right. I did both. We will see what happens.

Want the meeting? Fix your message.

Today’s sales people have a variety of communication channels available to help them reach prospects. Unfortunately, some sellers haven’t gotten the memo that we are long past the days of simply broadcasting a generic pitch.

Technology has given rise to laziness. Sending 100 emails to the wrong people with the wrong message is not an effective prospecting strategy. Leaving random phone messages isn’t either.

A few tips for sellers in how to engage their prospects more effectively to secure meetings:

  • Target the message to the right buyer and focus on what they care about, not what you want to sell.
  • Check your facts. I don’t run an entertainment company, as one sales email suggested and the sales rep should know that.
  • Check the grammar and spelling. Starting the first sentence of the email with “anyways” is not the way to make a positive impression.
  • Don’t use jargon that only people in your company understand.
  • Get the person’s name right.
  • Stop asking people to visit your website to learn more and “get back to me if I can answer any questions”. Lazy and presumes your prospect has the time to do your sales job.
  • Make sure the customer examples used are relevant. One sales pitch to me mentioned that “there is a reason why McKesson and Bain Capital” use our product. Well, that may be, but I run a small business. Using McKesson as a customer example isn’t relevant, so I conclude you know nothing about my business, and that I can’t afford what you sell anyway.

Here’s what a Sales Manager at one of our clients just told me… “I have to say that since you instructed us not to send out generic messages and invites (without personalizing), my meeting acceptance rates and speed has drastically improved.”

Remember…

Poorly written emails and inarticulate voicemail messages are killing your sales opportunities, and you probably don’t even know it. Put these tips into action and see your meeting acceptance rates increase.

 

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Sales Spam – Yum!

It is no wonder that sales often gets a bad rap. Desperation, lack of training, perhaps pressure from sales management…whatever the reason, it isn’t difficult to find examples of shoddy sales techniques being used on unsuspecting buyers every day. At a minimum, I receive one sales spam email like the one below that I’m showcasing today. It’s more common to receive two or three more just like it.

Take a minute to read it through. You tell me. Would you buy from this individual? Does this sales representative even know if I’m the right type of customer for him? Does he know anything about my business?

“Barbara – I was checking on this This ends at 5 PM PST today. Let me know if you would be interested Regards XYZ Representative

Barbara

2010 BlowOut Sale on Training and HR Executives Email List

We have new contacts (VPs ,Dir and Managers ) within the Training and HR Departments in corporations within the US.  We are offering these contacts, which you will own and can use as often as possible.These are all new contacts and have nt been sold before.

We are offering a 60% promotional discount on this list (valid thro Friday 09/24/10).It is being offered as given below.

  • 5000 New Training Contacts for $350(Regular Price- $1100)
  • 10,000 New Training Contacts for $600(Regular Price-$1800)
  • 20,000 New Training Contacts for $1100(Regular Price-$3500)
  • 40,000 New Training Contacts for $2000(Regular Price-$5000)
  • 5,000 New HR Contacts for $350(Regular Price- $1100)
  • 10,000 New HR Contacts for $600(Regular Price-$1800)
  • 20,000 New HR Contacts for $1100(Regular Price-$3500)
  • 40,000 New HR Contacts for $2000(Regular Price-$5000)

We will also provide a 120 day guarantee on the contacts and will replace each contact you find is inaccurate with an updated one.  Just to make sure that the new contact is valid and accurate we’ll guarantee it for 120 days as well.

With each record you receive:

Complete data: Name, Title, Direct E-Mail Address, Physical address, Phone Number, Company Name etc

Unlimited license: Most companies only rent you the data for one time use, we allow you to use this database as many times as you want, however you want.

If you need a more specific list – let us put together a custom contact list for you using geography, industry, revenue or titles.

If you are interested in the type of companies and titles we have I will send you a list with everything else removed so you can get an idea.”

To the sender…

Spam as a sales tactic is not an effective strategy. Yes, you might get some takers, but on the whole, you are far more likely to offend. I’ll remember you, of course. But, I won’t be buying from you. I only buy from people that I know, like and trust. I don’t buy from people who spam my inbox. Oh, and thanks for the competitive pricing information. You never know, it might come in handy someday. I probably should give you a break for making such a dumb sales mistake, but given the product you sell, maybe I understand why you feel sending email spam is a sound business practice.

To Sell or Not to Sell in the Online World

Discussion about how to “build relationships” in the online world and what’s acceptable in terms of “how to sell your stuff” seems to be on the rise lately. That’s to be expected I suppose, especially when you see some fairly obvious multi-level marketing tactics being displayed. It is a quandary I guess, isn’t it?

The whole idea of using social media/social networking from a sales point of view is to build relationships that lead to sales. Done right, I totally believe using social media helps you to better qualify leads and shrink the sales process. That’s all good and helps you to build your business. But notice that I said “done right”. What a conundrum. If you “sell from the podium” you risk trashing your brand. And if you don’t, what’s the point of being online if you can’t convert your activity into sales?

Good questions. I don’t know if I have the “right” answers…I just have my perspective.

In over 25 years of professional selling, I can honestly say that blatant self promotion has never been in vogue. Ever. Done in the online space, it’s worse.

What leads to people to…

  • Ask questions that they then answer by talking about how great they are? We are not fooled!
  • Answer questions and not actually contribute to the dialog, but just yak, yak, yak about themselves and their products?
  • Provide answers to questions that are clearly a push to their affiliate site? At least be honest about what you are doing.  Are you really that desperate?
  • Pretend they are trying to provide value, but then they manage to “sneak in” their own stuff. Please – do you think we can’t tell?
  • Not even answer the question at all, but instead sell their product instead. For example, in a recent LinkedIn group the question was “we are evaluating Achieve Global. Have you used their programs and what do you think?” This wasn’t a request for people to “pitch” their competitive product, but out of the first 5 responses – 4 did exactly that. Disgraceful!

I don’t know. Is it really that tough to just want to be in service to others knowing that you’ll get your just desserts at some other point? My belief is in the “do unto others” model…I don’t pollute the dialog with my sales pitch…maybe you could refrain from yours.

Watch Your Words – Your Intelligence is Showing

wordsHALF of adults in America judge people’s intelligence based on email content and format, reports GMX, a free email service for more than 11 million active users in survey research just released today.

Of the 1,002 US Adults surveyed who use e-mail for both work and personal reasons, 58 percent of Americans admitted they judge intelligence based on the writing style, tone and language used in email. You can bet they make the same sorts of judgments when you (or your people) send “tweets“, email newsletters, respond on blogs, chat on Facebook or comment in group discussions.

Words – what we say and how we say them – have always been an important factor in our ability to connect with others…or not. And in this new conversation economy your sales people must be acutely aware of what impression they create when communicating online. When contributing to the dialog in social networking communities, careful thought must be given to the words that are penned to the virtual paper. If you aren’t paying attention to what your people are saying – you put your brand at risk!

Here are 5 tips to improve how your sales people communicate online:

* Tell don’t sell. Storytelling is a way to create a picture in the mind of your buyer that will lead them to want to know more. In conversations avoid using common catch phrases that everyone else uses too. Who doesn’t think that their product or service is amazing, revolutionary, transformative, results oriented or cutting edge? Be more creative. For example, if your buyer plays tennis, you might say something like “when you work with us, we help you hit ace serves every single time.”

* Speak your buyer’s language. Sales people are often caught up in using jargon that makes sense to them and to their co-workers, but can completely turn off a potential buyer. This is about connecting with your next client, so drop the industry buzz words and get to know and use “their business language” not yours.

* Add value to the conversation. Demonstrate expertise by “adding more” to the conversation. Perhaps add a unique twist to how you would approach the situation being discussed. Resist the temptation to “talk about yourself and what you sell”. For several weeks, I’ve observed a Sales VP in one of my LinkedIn groups who just doesn’t understand this at all. In every question he poses and every question he answers, he talks about how great his company and their products are. He’s says he’s passionate, I think he’s arrogant and crushing his brand.

* Be transparent. In the online world (I would suggest in business in general), transparency is key. Although a lot of people use the word, I’m not sure they actually know what it means. Be crystal clear about your intentions, your affiliations and disclose anything that might be perceived as a bias on your part – up front. Way up front! For example, if you push a particular service and you earn an affiliate commission – say so. If you are trying to broker a partner deal then be honest about pushing them as a speaker at that next event you happen to chair. We figure it out anyway and you look bad for not disclosing your intentions ahead of time!

* Establish writing guidelines. It is very important that your sales folks get engaged in online conversations, and it is a wise idea to put some communication guidelines in place. Make sure you set expectations about what is acceptable when they are representing your company! Good rules of thumb are: leave your agenda at the door, manage your tone, be respectful, add value and be transparent when answering questions.

By the way, putting this topic front and center is a bit of a risk for me given you are judging my IQ at this very moment. Let’s hope I make the cut:)