Authenticity (n) - The quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine.
My brother Jeb Brooks and I have been talking with each other a lot lately about being authentic; about being true to yourself, your ideals, and sticking to what you know; about being genuine.
I’ve also been personally been giving much thought to doing the Right Thing. When I say this, I don’t necessarily mean being honest, although to me, that’s a given. In my world, and in the culture of The Brooks Group, this goes without saying. Integrity is a cornerstone principal of our company.
No, when I say that I’ve been personally considering what it means to do the Right Thing – which I equate with authenticity – I’m really saying that I’m focusing on improving my ability to listen to my instincts and ignore the “noise” that comes from over-intellectualizing a situation or business situation that requires action.
You see, if I spend a significant amount of time weighing the pros and cons of making a decision to do “X,” I can convince myself that “X” is the absolute right thing to do; however, if I spend an equal amount of time weighing the pros and cons of making a decision not to do “X,” I can convince myself that "X" is the absolute wrong thing to do.
What am I really saying here? That being authentic – genuine and following a sound moral compass – can drive us to make the absolute correct decision in the absence of certainty.
For instance, many times here at The Brooks Group, we have had a client ask us if we can perform a service that really isn’t directly what we do. Traditional leadership training would be a great example. In this case, we certainly know adult learning theory, we have content development and delivery capability and – based on the premise of this example – we have the demand.
The challenge? Today, it’s really not what we do. We, of course, offer sales training and sales management training (arguably an important form of leadership training); however, we operate in the Sales space, not in the Leadership space.
It wouldn’t be authentic of us to say “yes, we do offer leadership curriculum.”
So, how does this translate into your world? I don’t know. I can’t answer that question for you; however, I’ll bet you can. Perhaps it might help you decide how to handle an underperforming salesperson or other employee. Perhaps how to handle an issue with your one-up manager.
However it might work for you, I can tell you that that the principle of authenticity has been invaluable in helping me determine the best way to handle high-stakes situations. I hope it can help you.
If you're interested in helping the salespeople on your team gain access to those hallowed halls of the mythical "C-Suite," there are four critical components to consider. Whether they reach out in person, by phone, online or (ideally) some combination of the three, their approach must be customized, constructive, crisp, and clever. As a sales leader, it's your job to help them make that happen.
Blanket messages don't earn the attention of top-level decision makers. Why? Because whatever problems they're facing are too complicated for a one-sized-fits-all solution to address. If a "me-too" resolution could resolve one of their problems, it wouldn't have landed on their desk.
Marketing fluff or (worse) non-speak (e.g., "we're the market leader") is useless to these prospects. If you're communicating with them, make it useful, impactful, and practical.
It should be delivered quickly. Time is of the essence for these decision makers. They don’t have the time to waste. Get to the point.
Finally, it ought to be interesting and unique. If you’re saying something that everyone else is saying, you’re not likely to cut through the noise.
It really is that simple. The hard part? As always, it's in the execution. So get to it!
One of the posts I'm most proud of is one about the difference between optimism and pessimism.
In it, I presented the case for optimism.
Well, it turns out Barbara Frederickson, a psychological researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill has looked even more closely at the benefits of optimism. She's paying particular attention to how positivity impacts resilience. I ran across a sliver of her research in a tweet that linked to an article in The Atlantic.
She's discovered that resilient people are better at turning negatives into positives. Resilient people, for example, are more likely to see possibility in situations. A resilient salesperson sees a "No!" as getting him closer to a "Yes!" A non-resilient salesperson tends to look at a "No!" as inevitable. Resilient people seek challenges and rise to them. Non-resilient people shrink away from difficulty, more often choosing an easy path.
Professor Frederickson presented study participants with a stressful task: They had to prepare and deliver a speech about their qualities as a good friend with very little notice. When the participants learned their speeches would be recorded on video, they began getting more nervous (their blood pressure and heart rates were being measured). They were then informed that if they got to see a video, they wouldn't have to give the speech after all.
Turns out they were all shown short videos with themes that were either negative (something sad), positive (something happy), or neutral. The theory was that when the videos started playing, they would become less anxious.
There was an interesting difference.
All of the participants who saw positive videos calmed down much more quickly than the ones who saw negative or neutral videos. What does this mean? A positive experience can erase the impact of a stressful or negative one quickly. And, because resilient people are generally more positive, they become happier faster. In other words, optimism wins again!
This has sincere and important lessons for leadership. Salespeople who are more optimistic are more resilient. And vice versa. Resilient salespeople sell more. When you're hiring salespeople, it's important to measure optimism and resilience (among about 40 other capacities). We'd recommend using sales assessments to do that. However, if that's not possible, ask candidates for examples of specific times they've had to "bounce back" from adversity. For example, "Tell me about a time when you faced tough odds. How did you recover? Who did you turn to?" While you're at it, ask, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or "What's the greatest professional challenge you've overcome?" You get the picture.
Resilient salespeople can answer those kinds of questions quickly and easily. Non-resilient sellers will struggle a bit more.
How else have you seen resilience and positivity work together on a sales team?
This year is already stacking up to be a great one for our team.
Three of our clients were nominated -- and received -- Stevie Awards.
Jane Richardson and her team at PACCAR Parts was the Bronze Award winner for Sales Support Team of the Year. You can tell a lot about a team by the way its leader talks about their work. In Jane’s case, she’s incredibly humble and gives credit to everyone around her before taking it herself. Her team is responsible for supporting the learning and development of the entire dealer network as well as the internal PACCAR team. They focus on soft skills, sales, and customer service training. My colleague (and talented sales trainer) Steve Hackett said, “Jane and her team are, without a doubt, some of the most professional and dedicated people I’ve ever encountered.”
Our friends at Best Buy for Business were Bronze Award winners for delivering the Sales Training or Coaching Program of the Year. Despite taking 350 salespeople out of the field for a combined 26,950 training hours over the last year, the company saw a remarkable spike in numbers and excellent momentum following their training initiative. It involved two days of classroom training, nine weeks of reinforcement, and 52 follow-on sessions for each participant. Best Buy for Business customized a unique sales training program that reflected the expectations of their customers. They were able to do that by analyzing their current situation and adapting The Brooks Group's best practice research to their sales process.
Abbott Medical Optic's Stephanie Thames-Harris was a Bronze Award winner for Sales Training Professional of the Year. She, along with her team of 17 people, is charged with creating effective training and development solutions for approximately 1000 salespeople, 100 field sales managers, and 50 others. As Stephanie put it, “I feel that, as a training and development organization, we need to play a huge role in sales force effectiveness. In everything we do, we have to show how we’ll have a positive impact on the sales organization. That means improving behavior to exceed our sales goals.”
Oh, and The Brooks Group was selected as the Gold Award winner for Sales Training Practice of the Year for 2013!
If you're not used to it, hiring salespeople can be a daunting task. Bad ones can sometimes do a pretty good job of slipping past a hiring managers.
Salespeople -- even if they're terrible -- are uniquely positioned to "sell" themselves to interviewers. Separating the strong candidates from the weak ones isn't quite as simple as just asking the "right" questions. Instead, you have to dig deeper. Here are a handful of ideas...
- Interview former customers. When you're checking references, don't stop with managers or coworkers, ask to speak to satisfied clients. They're the ones whose impressions count the most.
- Check W2s. Knowing about a salesperson's past successes often comes down to the dollars-and-cents. How much a salesperson earned last year (and the years before) can give you an indication of future potential.
- Use experienced salespeople as screeners. Introduce candidates to your current salespeople. They can give you a quick read on whether they'll "fit." Of course, you might have to take these impressions with a grain of salt.
- Use sales assessments. It's always wise to use a sales assessment test to get a peak under the hood. And, when it comes to hiring salespeople, you've got to look far deeper than a quick and cheap assessment. Whole-person assessments are the only way to go.
- Ask to be sold. It's an old, but (surprisingly still) effective trick. Pick up something on your desk and ask your candidate to sell it to you. You're listening for them to ask you questions.
- Ask about failures. When have they failed? And, how? Confident salespeople are comfortable admitting defeat. You're not looking for a failure-proof salesperson. Why? Because they don't exist.
- Ask about good managers. Seek to understand what a good manager will do for them. Ask questions about what they want in a manager. Ask them to tell you about what great managers have done for them in the past. While you're at it, ask about bad ones, too.