Use Sales Skills and Psychometric Assessments to Improve Communications

BY Kathy Crosett
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Have you ever had a coaching session or a performance improvement discussion with an employee only to see them do the exact opposite of what you agreed on? In an old movie starring Paul Newman, who plays the character Cool Hand Luke, the prison captain announces, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Failed communications can sink your reps’ productivity and, coming from you, it can drive down motivation. Psychometric assessments improve communications if you learn how to use the results. 

Psychometric Assessments Improve Communications

Don Long, the author of books such as Sell or Don’t Eat and the founder of several successful companies, joined us on our Manage Smarter show to illustrate the importance of communications as an impact area that every organization should address. Organizational communication problems range from avoidance behavior to style.

Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news. When you or your team members have a disappointing or discouraging report to share, it’s easier to avoid those conversations. Unfortunately, putting off these talks means the problem grows larger and harder to fix. The second major communication problem, especially between managers and team members, centers on style. When you and an employee have different ways of communicating, the message can be easily lost. Here’s what you can do to fix these issues.

Managerial Communications

If you approach a team member about working with a large new client, they may say, without much enthusiasm, “Great. Thanks for thinking of me.” Or their eyes may light up when they say, “Wow! I can’t wait to get started. Thanks for this amazing opportunity.” In the case of the first response, which wasn’t what you hoped for, get to the bottom of what’s going on instead of ignoring or avoiding it.

Remember that communication is as much about what a person doesn’t say as what they do say. You can also read their facial expressions and their body language. Are they frowning? Do they step back and cross their arms? Pay attention to these signals.

In addition, you can understand a team member’s hesitation by reviewing the results of psychometric assessments that measure work traits such as “drive.” If your employee possesses plenty of drive, and you believe they would take on the new assignments with a little extra coaching, change your messaging based on their motivational tendencies. When financial outcomes are big motivators for an employee, you might want to attach a bonus for a job well done.

Work-​Style Miscommunication

Miscommunication also happens because of differences in work-​styles. Most employees may be very comfortable with the way you rush into their cubicle to discuss your latest idea. Not only that, they don’t complain when you take up 30 minutes of their time. Another employee might seem less enthusiastic to see you at their door at 4:30. It’s on you to know whether that rep usually leaves at 4:30 to handle a childcare responsibility. If you consistently make an employee feel they’re not measuring up because of their personal commitments, they’ll leave you.

This same employee may also have a different decision-​making style from the rest of your team. If they prefer to spend an hour reviewing the relevant data before they agree to your latest idea, cut them some slack instead of communicating your impatience. Respect that unique characteristic and give them extra time and space. In return, you may get valuable honest feedback. You can improve your team members' engagement and commitment by comparing your assessment results to theirs and following suggestions about the best way to change your communication style. 

Communication Outside the Department

Psychometric assessments improve communications when your reps have additional insight about themselves and their tendencies during the sales process. They’ll realize they should be aware of behaviors exhibited by customers and prospects. With training and practice, they can learn what to watch for. In his early sales experiences, Long learned how to pay attention to a prospect’s personality and preferences. Your reps can do the same thing.

During discovery, for example, they should pay attention to how the prospect answers questions. The speed, depth and details of their answers will reveal what they care about. “The number one rule in sales is that people want to be communicated to the way that they want communication, not the way you communicate,” says Long.

In his DISC model of human behavior, William Marston categorized individuals as exhibiting as mix of dominance, influence, steadiness, or conscientiousness. When your department encounters a prospect with a C‑profile, they’re dealing with a person who cares most about accuracy and detail. Try to assign your reps who think the same way to that account. 

Using Assessments Beyond Hiring

It's easy to fall into the habit of using assessment data only for hiring decisions. In truth, sales managers have better outcomes when they use this data to improve communications, assign tasks, and build teams. As Long says, the path to “liveliness” in employees is to align their work with “desire, strengths, and identity.”

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