How do you react when you see a typo? Do you indulge in frowning, head-shaking, eye-rolling and mutterings about how second-rate the author of the typo is? And perhaps more importantly, how does your client or new prospect react?
Have you ever lost a deal and couldn’t quite figure out why? Surely one little spelling error, annoying as it is, will not bring your sales forecast crashing down around your ears? Of course not, but this typo is a metaphor, not just for all the different errors or mistakes we see every day, but how we react to them. That’s where the danger lurks, but it’s also where your opportunity lies.
I call it ‘typo intolerance’.
We are all different, but do we value these differences? We are more likely to judge the differences between us, and rarely in a positive way. As human beings, we constantly scan the world around us, comparing what we see, hear, feel and smell with what we like and approve of, based upon our knowledge, opinion, personality and experience. We betray our true feelings through our body language and facial expressions, and if our tendency is towards disapproval, it cannot be good for client relationships.
This is about anything that we disapprove of according to our views, prejudices, and how we believe things should be done. It’s all about human nature, and the problem is this; our disapproval can be corrosive and destructive. It can make or break your business because it can become toxic, eroding trust, choking creativity, sapping morale and destroying results.
For any sales manager, how do people perform in such an environment? How do they grow and develop skills if mistakes are used as opportunities to punish rather than to learn? Is that the best way to grow sales?
If someone we don’t like makes a small mistake, how do we react compared to someone we really like? Same mistake, two different reactions. In the first instance, it confirms our belief that this person is not good enough, that they cannot be trusted - even if the mistake is rare. Whereas we forgive the other person and reflect that we can all learn from our mistakes.
Typo-intolerance works well with ‘things’. I worked at Intel Corporation for many years, witnessing the birth of the internet, and the development of amazing technology. I was intrigued by the term ‘defect intolerance’, as applied to a remarkable focus on manufacturing consistently high quality leading edge technology and products. It’s a great principle for ‘things’, but when applied to people, it doesn’t work.
The latest technology marketing slogan is ‘The Internet of Things’. The marketing team understands the intent of this with respect to the convergence of multiple technologies, but the sales team knows that we sell things to people.
In any organisation, people are our most important asset. Does it make sense to treat them like a typo? Any piece of expensive technology is only as good as its operator. How frequently do we treat our people with typo-intolerance, responding with disapproval to their every mistake? “Treating people like things doesn’t work. In fact, it is more likely to break than make your business.
The next time you see a typo or notice an error, please take a moment to ask yourself: How big a deal was it? What have I learned from it? Is there a funny side? Or does it give me an opportunity to do something amazing? Most of all, please remember that in the few moments after you notice any kind of error, you have a choice. Seek the positive, rather than dwell in the negative, because it’s your reaction that will make or break your business.
Sales are all about relationships. Great sales people easily build rapport with potential clients. They understand that deals are closed by paying attention to the client and listening carefully to what they say, then asking great questions that demonstrate appreciation for the client’s needs.
Your body language and facial expressions should mirror what you say to your client, because if they betray different feelings, you risk losing the deal. Pay attention to the client’s body language as well, because if that betrays different feelings, you have more work to do.
About the Author:
By Kieran Hearty, Executive Coach, Consultant and Leadership Speaker with over 30 years’ experience across international technology and financial services companies. Author of ‘How to Eat the Elephant in the Room’.