Mothers are pretty incredible people. Beginning with conception through adulthood, they care for us, feed us, mentor us, sacrifice for us, protect us and … you get the point. But the one thing most mothers don’t do well is teach top performing sales skills. In fact, they do the very opposite when it comes to teaching cold calling, negotiation, and closing skills.
It’s not deliberate by any means. In fact, their intentions are pure. It is just that their messages seem to keep playing in our heads long after we’re working adults. And when it comes to selling, those messages just raise havoc. Here are examples of three scripts that run in our heads that get in the way of critical elements leading to successful selling.
- “Don’t talk to strangers” is something we’ve all heard. For children it’s a great piece of advice. For adults whose careers rely on cold calling, networking, and delivering exceptional customer service, it is terrible.
- “Don’t speak until spoken to” is another sales career killer. Or take the female version of this: “nice girls should be seen and not heard.” While listening skills are a critical component of effective communication, waiting for others to give you permission to introduce yourself or ask questions is a no-no, not only for sales but leadership as well.
- “Good things come to those who wait.” This could be the loudest and strongest tape that salespeople need to turn off. To the chagrin of many managers, thousands of salespeople believe this to be true.
How can a manager know how likely it is that this motherly advice will interfere with the future performance of salespeople?
The solution is fairly simple. Our personalities are shaped by many factors. But simply speaking, nature and nurture seem to cover all the bases. Which one has the greater impact? We’ll leave that to the researchers to debate but it’s safe to say that nurture does shape our personality.
Therefore employment tests that focus on personality traits can help cue managers how likely a salespeople will hear their mother’s lessons when prospecting and meeting with clients.
Here’s an example. One trait commonly assessed with personality tests is the assertiveness trait. Several pre-employment tests use the 5-factor personality model. Using employment testing software such as PeopleClues, Prevue, or Assess, a manager can learn how assertive or submissive salespeople are.
Individuals falling in the lower 50 percentile of assertiveness might have trouble, or at least feel uncomfortable, “talking to strangers” and not “speaking until spoken to.” A manager can then decide if this applicant should be flagged as unqualified or for training. To be fair, the assessments will also reveal those salespeople who assert themselves so strongly and interrupt so often that customers might view them as brash and arrogant.
Another important scale on 5 factor employment tests is named stability. Stability measures how an employee copes with stress and feedback. This scale is a bit of 2-edged sword. To be successful, most positions and company cultures require employees to have a sense of urgency and worry. Managers expect and even reward employees who bring a degree of anxiety to work, especially relating to job security, performance, and where the next sales will come from. In other words, the most successful salespeople do get stressed; they just know how to manage. But employees who fall in the lower 25% may be too easily stressed out and may even take their co-workers and managers on an emotional roller-coaster. On the other hand, salespeople whose emotional stability is too high might seem to lack urgency. For some, this leads to complacency and an attitude that “good things come to those who wait.” I don’t know many sales managers who share that same philosophy.
These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg when considering how employment testing can be used to hire salespeople whose mental tapes don’t interfere with their performance. For more information how employment tests can be used to hire top performance salespeople, click here.
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, Mothers are unheralded, under recognized heroes and role models. But the lessons they taught us as children don’t bode well for the adults who seek to become top performing salespeople.