Rapport & curiosity – your new performance measures
HBR released an interesting article last week talking about the need for businesses to train for superior voice and human interaction skills even as AI and automation increases.
It caught my attention because its message about the effectiveness of human-to-human communication links into a few conversations I’ve had recently. More than one company, it seems, is facing the challenge of getting a new generation of sales and producers to engage in enough phone and face-to-face work.
Of course, this isn’t really a new issue. Whether you sold or produced in the 90s, 00s (let alone now) there were always people who were phone-shy and who avoided direct client interaction.
The argument from those who are less confident in human-human conversation is that they can find a wealth of info online – or that they can get responses from contacts purely by messenger or email.
But the reality that we need to convey is that information gained in this way is untested.
- It isn’t sense-checked
- The outcomes aren’t challenged or drilled into
- There’s limited context for the responses
- .. most of all it encourages the use of assumptions and generalisations in valuable commercial projects
So as a manager, how can you develop teams that consistently develop strong networks, products and campaigns that your portfolios require?
Whether its sales or production, I’d suggest it comes down to 4 things:
#1: Recruit for attitude and behaviours
Finding people with phone skills is important. But how about recruiting for people with the specific values of curiosity and resilience? The former means you know they’ll be interested in the market and client base, the latter shows they can work through periods of discomfort (for example, as they get used to calling in high volume) to a point when they are skilled and successful on the phone.
#2: Train on how to progress questioning in research & sales
Whoever you oversee, focus on the quality of questions that your team is asking, how they qualify what they hear and then how they dig for more information. Train for it and then notice it – it’s not a one-time conversation.
#3: Don’t ignore the skill of rapport-building
Arguably ever more essential, with so many people used to spending the majority of their lives in informal/online communication. It’s coachable and essential.
Make the quality of phone and face-to-face work a regular conversation within the business: coach teams and managers to be accountable for it (and then, again, notice/reward those who do it).
In terms of training, the questions are easy (there’s an example list of 10 early stage questions that I can send you). But none of it matters if the team isn’t genuinely curious about the people they talk to and are actually building true rapport.
I can think of a couple of producers and sales people that I’ve worked with who weren’t the most polished in the team – but their extraordinary ability to build rapport delivered exceptional results. They were also genuinely curious about clients, building relationships with humour and by sharing the ideas and insights they’d developed.
Drop me a line if you’d like to talk through any challenges within your own teams around these issues, or if you have a comment on the subject.
Ps. If you could use a brief review of top questions your team can use for early stage client calls and meetings, let me know. It includes examples, but also ideas on how they can build the right questions for themselves (You won’t receive an onslaught of spam – that’s a promise).
Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about any of these view points and experiences. Also if you’re wondering if your business is heading in the right direction for sale, download our Sales Readiness Cheat Sheet to check your progress.