It’s funny what you can learn from not just listening to someone, but actually hearing what they say. According to experts, you can tell a lot about a person by the words they choose. At a recent conference, two separate speakers, explained how the way people express themselves can tell you a lot about how to best communicate with them for maximum impact. For instance, if they say “here is the way I see it”, vs. “It sounds to me like”, it is better speak to the first in visual terms. This means your message will be better understood if you use visual references and use visual examples. Whereas with the latter are more auditory, as a result your communication geared to the spoken word, yours and theirs, leveraging sounds and noises to emphasize or accentuate things.
So what happens when we explore the concept a bit further and with respect to sales people, hiring and managing them, as well as to sales leaders. Not so much visual or auditory, but what telltale sign can their words or expression give? What can you observe from how they talk about their craft and work? What could we learn about their skills, how they execute, and as a result whether you should keep them (or hire them), and if so how to coach them to improve.
Again, this applies to sales leaders as well. Having spoken to my share, I find it interesting when they tell me “we’re doing OK.” Now this is not a cold call, there I expect that, and know how to deal with it too, but in conversation. Is that really the goal of a sales leader, to get his troops to OK? How do you present OK at a board meeting or leadership team gathering? When you ask what OK means, some redeem themselves with data and specifics, and can articulate what has to be done to move past OK. But when the response is ambiguous, almost surrendering in nature, surrendering to the reality of another missed month or quarter, OK, is not good enough or a plan.
Further, if you as a leader are good with OK, what will that say to your team?
The front line is often no different. Listen to a great sales person describe the role, vs. a veteran of 15 years, what I call one of the 80 Percenters. Not based on the 80/20 Pareto principle, one of those reps who may have met goal once or twice, but usually delivers 80% or so of quota. The former will tell you a key element of their role is to exceed quota, the latter will tell you “do what you can to try and hit goal”. Leading one to ask, is that 15 years in the business, 15 years of growth and improvement, or the same year 15 times over?
The former group can tell you exactly what they need to achieve their goal, right down to the number of prospects, and the effort it takes to secure those prospects. Ask the latter, and you get “depends”; on what? “You know”. I guess someone has to, but it is usually best if it is the person who has been tasked.
Words are a great window to the thinking behind the word, that thinking drives attitude, which in turn drives execution. Change how you describe your sales, and change the outcome.