WHAT GREAT SALESPEOPLE SAY – Harvard Business Review Sales Linguistics Article

Original Post: Heavy Hitter Steve W. Martin…
Harvard Business Review is arguably the most prestigious publication for business leaders and management thinkers. Here’s one of my recent Harvard Business Review articles about Sales Linguistics.

Without language, you wouldn’t be able to share your ideas, display your personality, or express yourself to the world. You couldn’t communicate your needs and desires to others, and the never-ending dialogue within your mind would grind to a halt. The words we speak truly define who we are. However, since we are continually talking all the time, we often take it for granted.

Many well-established fields of language study exist to help us gain a deeper understanding of how we talk to each other. Sociolinguistics is the study of language use in society and social networks; psycholinguistics is the study of how the mind acquires, uses, and represents language; and neurolinguistics is the study of how brain structures process language. “Sales linguistics” draws from these fields to help us understand how salespeople and their prospective customers use and interpret language during the decision-making process.

Successful customer communications are the foundation of all sales, and the most persuasive and effective salespeople — the ones I call “Heavy Hitters” — naturally speak in the language of their customers. The question is, “What do they say?”

The three fundamental principles, drawn from sales linguistics, can help us be more persuasive salespeople: every customer speaks in his or her own unique language, successful salespeople build rapport through harmonious communication, and, finally, that people are persuaded based on personal connections. Let’s look at each of these imperatives in turn:

1. Understand that Customers Speak Unique Languages
Most companies arm their salespeople with a “one size fits all” company sales pitch. Unfortunately, each person on this planet speaks his or her own unique language. All the mundane and traumatic experiences of your life have determined the language you use — where you grew up, the language used by your loved ones, where you went to school, your friends, your career, the amount of money at your disposal, and even your spirituality. Just as no one else has had your exact life experiences, no one else speaks your precise language. Therefore, the language two people use to describe the same situation — or the way two people interpret the same language — may be very different.

For example, reading the word “snake” might cause you to visualize a rattlesnake, python, or a cobra. While these are all specific interpretations of the word, they all may naturally invoke fear and negative emotions. Conversely, if you had raised a pet snake as a child, you probably have a positive mental association. Since the personal meanings of words can vary greatly, you may have thought of an unscrupulous businessperson when you first read the word “snake.”

2. Build Rapport Through Harmonious Communication
Unfortunately, when most salespeople meet with prospective customers, they talk in only their own language and only about themselves. The subject of the conversation is me, me, me: my company, my product’s benefits, and my product’s features and functions. When Heavy Hitter salespeople meet with customers, they talk about them, them, them: their problems, their values, and their plans and desires. They speak their customers’ language in order to build rapport.
Rapport is a special relationship between two individuals based upon harmonious communication. However, human communication occurs in several different forms and on several different levels. An immense amount of information is conveyed verbally, nonverbally, consciously, and subconsciously. A Heavy Hitter naturally adapts their mental wiring and language to mirror that of their customer.

3. Persuade People Through Personal Connections
Salespeople are paid to persuade. But what makes them persuasive? Is it their command of the facts and their ability to recite a litany of reasons why customers should buy? In reality, the most product-knowledgeable salesperson is not necessarily the most persuasive one because it takes more than logic and reason to change buyers’ opinions. A personal connection must be forged.

Persuasion is the process of projecting your entire set of beliefs and convictions onto another human being. It’s not about getting others to acknowledge your arguments or agree with your business case; it’s about making them internalize your message because they believe that it is in their best interests. Ultimately, persuasion is the ability to tap into someone’s emotions and reach the deeper subconscious decision maker within that person.

Heavy Hitter salespeople are accomplished communicators who know what to say and, equally important, how to say it. Through their mastery of language, they are able to convey and decipher deep underlying messages that less-successful salespeople miss. While using the same language as most salespeople, they develop an uncanny ability to influence nonbelievers to trust them and convince complete strangers to follow their advice. Sales linguistics can help us understand how they turn skeptics into believers and persuade prospective customers to buy.

Get In The Habit Of Asking And Listening

By Walter Rogers
President and CEO
Baker Communications, Inc.

Experienced sales professionals already know that asking questions is the best way to uncover customer needs. However, you can be good at asking questions and still never be highly successful, and here is why: A lot of sales professionals only ask questions so they can steer the customer to the solution they already had in mind when the conversation started. This approach to using questions may lead to a sale, but it may not create the level of trust, intimacy and understanding that is necessary to build a long-term relationship. This approach – because it is still grounded in the sales professional’s needs and goals – may not uncover all of the customer’s needs or create a complete understanding of the customer’s situation. Remember, the question you must keep asking yourself is not “what can I sell,” but rather, “how can I help?”
This process is very similar to the doctor who asks, “where does it hurt?” The doctor usually doesn’t stop there. He will also ask things like:
How often does it hurt?
Is it hurting now?
When was the last time it hurt?
What were you doing when it hurt?
How long did it hurt?
For the full article, click here.

What to Expect on a Second and Third Interview

Original Post: By Darryl K. Taft, The Ladders
“Understanding the typical schedule and purpose of each round can prepare you to face each and give you an advantage in the hiring process.”
Before you hear the words, “You’re hired,” you will typically sit through three separate interview sessions … at least.

You prepared for the first interview. So you’re prepared for the second and third interviews, right? Probably not, say human resources professionals.

Why do they even require three or more interviews? Wouldn’t it be more productive for everyone to meet all the decision makers in a single session and avoid the duplicate trips and days off from your current job? Couldn’t they ask you every question in a single day?

Hiring professionals structure interview schedules with specific intent and each round has a unique purpose, said several human resources managers who spoke to TheLadders. Understanding the typical schedule and purpose of each round can help you prepare for each and hand you an advantage in the hiring process.

Weeding Out
The first interview is strictly used to weed out candidates who stand out from those who simply looked good on paper (resume). Interviewers will try to ask questions to verify the claims made on a resume and the focus remains on matching the candidate to the basic job requirements — certifications, qualifications, presentation and salary.

It’s a “high level chat,” said Mark Johnson, HR manager for the Americas at Serena Software in Redwood City, Calif. “This is where we are getting to know you,” Johnson said. “This is the phase where we say, ‘This is what we’re looking for,’ and ‘This is what we see on your resume that supports what we are looking for.’”
It’s a screening process, said Gia Colosi, director of human resources, at eMeter in San Mateo, Calif., another software maker. “At this point we’re looking at whether you have the technical capability to do the work.”

Layers of a Cake
The second interview is where an interviewer will begin to press for examples of specific experiences that support the candidate’s claims to be the person presented in their resume.

“Think of it as layers of a cake,” said Marilyn Monarch, group director for HR consulting and services at Citrix Systems. “We’re trying to find out the applicant’s work history for the last five to seven years … If we’re talking a second interview we’ve got a solid candidate. They’ve moved beyond being a suspect to a prospect.”

Monarch said the type of question she likes to ask in a second interview is to have the candidate speak about a recent incident where they identified an area that needed improvement in their last or current position, and then to walk her through how they went about getting it resolved.

“Sometimes you get an impactful representation of what the candidate is about,” she said. “We’re listening for experience and how they present their story.”

The second interview is also a time to ensure that the candidate understands the intricacies of the position, the work involved and the compensation, Johnson noted. “I have to calibrate my expectations and their experience with what the job requires,” Monarch said.

Serena Software’s Johnson says one of the most important things for him in the interview process is honesty. “For candidates it’s really important to be honest,” he said. “Be very honest. Be clear about your abilities, do not overstate. We’re looking for instances where the applicant has done the things they claim. But if you can’t answer quickly or honestly it quickly becomes apparent in the interview process and causes it to break down.”

Do Your Research
Another key point for candidates returning for a second interview is that they know the company they are applying to.

“Be very aware of who we are as a company — what we do, what our market space is and what the team you are joining does,” Johnson said.

Robert Erzen, vice president of HR at Palo Alto Networks, a network security software provider, said, “It’s critical that they know something about us. My advice is to take some time to go onto LinkedIn so they can even find a name they can drop of somebody who works here — the name of a friend of a friend even.”

Monarch says she likes to see that a candidate has done their homework on the company. “It pays to show that they are very interested in the company. They ought to know who we are, what we do and what’s the scope of our business. If they stumble or don’t know anything, that candidate’s chances may be limited.”

Another tip from Monarch is that candidates study the company’s Web site. Most corporate Web sites are robust and have lots of information. If the company in question is public, the financials as well as information about the products and services are all available online. Moreover, it also pays to know the company’s competitive landscape, she said. “In the initial interview we look very simply at whether the person can make an immediate impact on our business,” Erzen said. “Do they have the chops to join our firm? So we look for that twinkle or that passion. And we definitely look for people who can come in and bring ideas.”

The Right Fit
Meanwhile, Johnson said when Serena asks a candidate in for a third interview it is to finalize their view of the person’s technical competence.

“The final interview is to figure out if the candidate is the right fit,” he said. “And the final interview typically involves the hiring manager, someone from HR, and there can also be a team member and a higher level manager there.” Johnson says he looks for candidates who can effectively challenge the status quo. “Come with a little fire in the belly.”

“We’re looking for candidates who want to make a contribution and not just plug along putting a widget in the exact spot every day,” Monarch said. “We also look for people who can work in ambiguity. Citrix requires a lot of collaborative work so those who can work in a team setting have better chances.”

Of the HR professionals interviewed, Colosi was the only one who said they do four rounds of interviews. And the fourth is typically to meet the company’s CEO to get his approval. But by the fourth interview, “You’ve already got an offer.”

Other tips? Avoid distractions, Erzen said. This means to silence your cell phone. And do not pull out a PowerPoint presentation unless you’re looking for a sales or marketing position. With most any other role, it’s overkill, the HR pros said.

“It’s very typical in the industry and probably for most companies to have a phone interview first, rather than taking the candidate’s time to drive out to the site,” said Marilyn Monarch, group director for HR consulting and services at Citrix Systems.

Darryl K. Taft is a general assignment reporter for TheLadders.

Fakes and Frauds in High End Sales

Have you ever dealt with a slick salesperson? Or worse…are you a slick salesperson without even knowing it? In this video Erik Luhrs will show you some of the “tried and true” sales tricks that actually annoy buyers and cost you sales. He will also show you the simple way to bypass all the tricks and make sales more enjoyable for everyone.

WHY TOP Sales People Can Also Become TOP Sales Managers

This week’s guest author Philippe Le Baron of  LB4G Consulting, Inc has over twenty years of experience in consulting, sales, and sales management in Europe and in the USA. As selling habits have tremendously changed over the last 2 years, Philippe’s background in solution selling and large complex sales has also led him to design and  run various sales workshops on consultative selling, solution selling and value selling to complement his unique 1+1+1=4 !®  front line sales management workshops.

These days, I am getting tired of all these articles and discussions I see where the main point seems to be  “STOP promoting your best sales people to become front line sales managers. You are making a huge mistake. Top players never make great coaches. If you are a great sales person then you are doomed to become a lousy front line sales manager because sales people are “wired” differently than sales managers…etc…etc…”

It sounds like the better sales person you are, the less chance you have of being successful as a sales manager because these 2 jobs supposedly require very different skills…

I have seen many sales managers fail at making that transitional step and there was a time I was tempted to think this analysis had some substance, but today I could not disagree more.

Over the last 10 years, the skills I have seen the BEST sales managers apply with their team to drive growth and successfully assess and influence their reps on a daily basis are PRECISELY the same skills they were using when they were selling to their customers : questioning skills, listening skills, and influencing skills.

The other thing I hear all the time is that TOP sales reps are the worst coaches which is why they can not become TOP sales managers who need to be excellent at coaching.

Again, I could not disagree more today.

Great sales people and great sales managers have a lot in common, including coaching skills.

If you are a TOP sales person today in a VALUE selling environment,  there is a great chance you are a master at CONSULTATIVE selling because this has become the only way for you to survive as a sales person in this buyer’s market economy.  You can’t push your solution fwd,  you have to make it fit into your prospect’s problem and you have to discover these problems first (which is why you need to be a great questioner and listener, …)
Well, guess what ? Coaching is all about consultative selling. Renowned Author Steve Schiffmann, America’s corporate sales trainer and author of numerous sales books, says that his definition of selling is “finding out what your prospect does, where he does it, when he does it, how he does it, who he does it with, why he does it that way and then – and only then- helping him/(her) do it better”.

Well, my own definition of coaching (a rep) is  “finding out what your rep does, where he does it, when he does it, how he does it, who he does it with, why he does it that way and then – and only then- helping him/(her) do it better.”…

Sales managers need to apply the exact same skills as sales people, but to very different clients…their REPS!

The main reason TOP sales people do not always become TOP sales managers is not because of skills mismatch, it is because of PROCESS mismatch and lack of TIME  and SUPPORT before, during and after the transition into the new job.

Managing, or leading sales people, is not about managing your reps’ sales process, that should be your reps’ job! For you as a sales manager there is a whole new dimension and a whole new process by itself that will eventually help you manage  yourself more efficiently on a daily basis.

The process of leading sales people is something that most sales managers and their own managers do not fully grasp yet. Without help from their VP sales guiding them to apply the same skills (their strengths at selling) to very different habits (sales managers habits) and to very different clients (their reps), RISING sales managers’ only hope is leading by example as their best coaching technique  and you are left trying to get a mom teaching  her kids the habits of brushing their teeth by showing them how well mom brushes her own teeth (good luck …).

Sales management has unique management challenges  because sales people are unique people to manage and the ART of influencing sales people -to do something different-  is the same as the ART of influencing prospects -to buy-. If you don’t believe me, try hiring  an “experienced manager” not coming from sales and put him/her in charge of a couple of hungry sales people and see what happens…

Sales management, however,  is also a SCIENCE – the science of sales management productivity – and as such,  has its own processes and therefore its own metrics to help sales managers stay on track.

Now, the good news is that the art of leading sales people can be mastered and the science of sales productivity can be taught. The recipe is simpler than you think. Cooking it right starts with the sales manager : it requires focus from him/her on understanding, practicing and reenforcing these new habits with his/her sales team and ends with dedicated support from his/her VP of Sales in terms of time, coaching and budget for external help when needed (that’s me…).

So if you are a very successful sales rep who wants to become a sales manager for the right reasons (not because your ego only demands it, that’s not good enough…), then don’t lose hope because YES, you certainly have the skills to  do it and if  you benefit from the right support  it is worth becoming a TOP  sales manager instead of just an average one : the rewards for you and for your company are : a team who is ready to follow you anywhere because you make them successful year over year and +50% to your TOP LINE (difference actually measured with the comparable performance of average sales managers (also called reactive firefighters…)).

So, who wants to start cooking?