Welcome to Scale Your Sales Podcast. Bev Hancock is a conversational catalyst who believes in leading through conversation. She facilitates vital conversations for the new world of work that result in high trust, relationship, and collaboration. With 20 plus years in Leadership and life-long learning, she passionately believes that our greatest power lies in the conversations we have every day – she brings the science and magic of conversation to transform lives, teams, and businesses.
Bev has been in leadership for a long time. A few years ago, she realised that leadership has got very heavy, sending our leaders on executive courses to universities and giving them all kinds of strategy. Instead of focusing on what leaders every day and that is talking to people, whether customers, stakeholders or talking their teams. Bev was intrigued, how the conversation is a strategic driver of success in business. She, fortunately, studied with Judith Glaser, the world’s expert in conversational intelligence. Bev was bloom away by how the quality of your conversations to transform a culture to transform your client relationships, to transform the experience that you are creating for your customers.
Bev retold a conversation that one of her executive coaching clients had when working through this process with him. He took over a region where there was a toxic fear-based culture with a lot of resistance in the system to change. By going through these conversational tools and techniques, he was able to see a shift in the process of the conversation, moving people to be more open, willing to listen. Such that, he said within the first two minutes of the conversation he could see exactly what strategy he needed to put in place to move it forward. After a period of six weeks, there was such a definitive difference in the culture that the head office wanted to know what they were doing differently.
Bev says she has seen a lot of sales methodologies come and go, it is not only sales have changed, but customers have also changed. They are looking for something completely different, they are looking for an experience and a relationship, not a transaction. The companies who are going for good to great are the companies who are focusing in on loyalty and retention, it is just so much easier to keep your clients when they are part of your family. These conversations can transform that sales conversation. When you have a relationship with a client, eventually it is no longer a sales call, it is how are we going to work together.
The real power of building that relationship through every single interaction that you have the salesperson becomes part of the chain to create the greater value because on the other side of the salesperson, there’s also a conversation with inside the seller organisation to ensure that there is a seamless experience customer receive.
Bev said a diverse group changes the type of conversations because context is everything. You have always got to work within the context that you are having the conversation in, there are so many nuances that diversity brings. They are a lot of biases, some we know about others we do not and so many of these things shut down the conversation. The question is, how do we open up space for people to step from difference and diversity into a space of being fully human. A place where we meet each other to get the best possible result from everybody. When you listen to people, you allow multiple perspectives and you allow the rich diversity. In South Africa, the Rainbow Nation, because there are so many colours in so many different perspectives and so many different cultural influences, it makes a richer conversation. Bev says, what diversity does for us is it invites us to embrace the full richness of what everybody in the group must bring.
Bev said, anybody going into a sales conversation is going to meet a certain level of resistance because they think, you obviously want to sell me something those barriers tend to be up Perhaps the real start of the conversation is. Are we doing less talking and more listening? And are we tuning in? Are we asking questions? Are we finding out who our customer really is? And that the problem that we might perceive to be is not necessarily the problem they have, and just spending some time in that conversation you can uncover so much more. What we call, the shifting of the trust needle starts when you make it about them and not about you. And I think this is a big shift for salespeople. Salespeople are generally are better talking than they are listening. That is what they have been trained to do, all this now must change, salespeople must be better at listening.
Bev said, what she loves about the science is that you can literally re-engineer and rewire the brain in the way that you have the conversation. You can create different chemical makeup. If you have a group who is probably dealing with change, feeling anxious, and threatened. You are dealing with stress hormones and stress chemicals in the brain. Calming conversations help make people feel more receptive, the brain opens up. Bev said when she realised that this was as much a biological process, it becomes less about soft skills. It just made sense that you could change the chemistry of a conversation by the way that you choose to have it. So, your Mother was right when she said: “it’s not what you say it’s how you said it.” This can make such a monumental shift in how you start moving this process from resistance to collaboration. When people are resistant, it does not matter what you put in place, they will not collaborate unless they feel that they are cared for.
An example of what you should not do say Bev so normally when you get pushed, what is your normal reaction? Your normal reaction is to push back, generally, when there’s resistance, the listener is either doesn’t like you, although that’s not generally the problem is normally a feeling like you’re coming and asking me to change what I know, all right, and that’s taking me into a scary space. I am comfortable where I am now, and how do I move that?
So, what we tend to do is if we tend to use one of two processes. Either we say to them, let me tell you because I know to trust me. I am an expert. Number one, that is one of the first worst things that you could do. The second thing that you shouldn’t be doing at this stage and this sometimes goes against some of the sales training you might have received is that this is not the time for influence, all right, to try and persuade and to get them to do something. If I go back to a conversation that I’ve had with a colleague who is now having to shift the way that they are looking at the world of speaking for, for instance, and they were very convinced that they were right, and this is how you were doing it. So, all I did was I tuned-in and I listened, and I ask questions and I allowed them to shift. In coaching the power comes through the question. The question opened up his own thinking, and eventually, the response was, Well, yes, Maybe if I shifted like this, or maybe if I shifted like that and straight away you can see the resistance starting to diminish. So, it is counter-intuitive Your natural response is to push. The best thing you could do is hold back and provide space. That would be the first strategy that you would use to overcome resistance and know that it does not normally only happen in one conversation that might take two or three
A great example is when you are not the entrenched provider and you are having to go in and say, pick me, pick me. There will be resistance because they have an existing relationship with a provider unless they are extremely unhappy with existing provided, they have no reason to change. Tune-in and allow that natural resistance to something new to get them excited about it and to start drawing them in. You have achieved it when they start telling you what you could do for them.
The most powerful thing Bev recommends in sales is to find the one thing that you have in common because before you go to any technical conversation, people want to know there is a connection. Look for the common ground because straight away that creates connection and connection is the heart of trust. From that start creating a trusted connection. Bev says, do not underestimate the power of caring connection. People will listen so much deeper and they will connect with you on a completely different level if they think that you care about them. Which means that you do not only speak to a client when you want something from them.
Bev was very privileged to work with our previous public protector at magnificent lady by the name of Thulisile Nomkhosi “Thuli” Madonsela. For her Shero, Bev says Thuli is the absolute epitome of grace and trust under fire. Probably the most difficult communication environment where she took on what was a very toxic government environment, her beauty and her grace and her thought processes and her attention to detail and her caring came through so strongly. Bev did an exercise in the room where she held up a picture of Hillary Clinton and Thulisile Nomkhosi “Thuli” Madonsela, this was during the time of the Clinton and Trump presidential elections. Bev asked the audience for their instinctive response in terms of trust from 1 to 5. Thulisile Nomkhosi “Thuli” Madonsela was fives completely across the board. Hillary Clinton’s were variable.
Bev said one of the reasons why she is her shero is that she made such a difference in the work that she did with such incredible grace and maturity.