Today, Gretchen Dougherty is one of the top sales people in her company, but this wasn’t always the case. Her company sells home security systems, and Gretchen’s job as an inside sales agent is to prospect over the phone to schedule home visits where a field sales representative gives a security consultation (otherwise known to you and me as a sales pitch). She spends her days sitting in a cubicle dialing out to homeowners trying to get them to schedule a home evaluation. Gretchen gets paid a sales commission for every security system that is sold as a result of appointments she sched-ules.
When she first took the job, she was taught that sales is a num-bers game. Management told her that she had to make a specific number of outbound calls every day in order to beat the odds. The best sales people in the company made approximately ninety to 100 phone calls per day and ended up scheduling three to five field appointments, out of which one would normally sign a contract. Management really stressed to her the importance of making a high volume of calls. Each sales person even had a daily call quota.
The problem is that Gretchen had a very different talent set than most of the other sales people. Unlike the majority of them, she had a very high natural talent for empathy. It was this empathy that actually got in her way, because while other sales people would spend no more than a few minutes trying to push for an ap-pointment, Gretchen found herself talking to people for five, ten, even fifteen minutes or more. She knew she had to generate a high volume of calls, so she was constantly turning left and trying to fix herself by suppressing her natural empathy and not connecting too much with the person on the other end of the phone.
When she did this, she was not being true to who she was. She was awkward and preoccupied with watching the all-holy clock that sat next to her computer. The more she tried to ignore her natural tendencies and think differently, so she could follow the script and stick to a time limit, the more awkward and ineffective she became.
Gretchen was in trouble. She wasn’t performing well at all, and the top question on her management’s mind was whether she would quit before they fired her. She was definitely ready to quit when I first met her.
After I spoke with Gretchen, it became clear right away that the issue seemed to be a poor fit between her natural talents and her role. Because of this, I gave her a battery of assessments to help understand what her true talents were and how well they were aligned with her existing role. One of these assessments was the Attribute Index that we used in the Genius Project.
The moment I saw the results, it was obvious to me what the problem was, and Gretchen confirmed. Her extremely high empa-thy was causing her to want to connect with people too much, at least too much to allow her to meet her daily call quota. The rest of the sales people in the company didn’t have anywhere near Gretchen’s level of empathy. Getting on and off the phone as quickly as possible wasn’t a problem for them, but it was proving to be a big problem for Gretchen. She felt bad about talking at peo-ple instead of talking with them. The result was that Gretchen was trying to be something she wasn’t, and it was negatively affecting her performance in a big way.
Luckily, her company was pretty open-minded about how to fix the problem. They had spent a lot of money training Gretchen, and given that they were already suffering from a high human turnover rate, they gave me the latitude I needed to attempt to correct the problem.
What did I do? I simply told Gretchen to turn right and figure out how to be true to who she was. Once she opened up to the possibility that she could change the way she worked instead of the way she naturally thought, she was able to make adjustments to how she went about achieving her goals.
I asked her how she would do the job if she were in charge. I said, “Just do you.” As a result, Gretchen turned right and sought to change her role—not herself. She decided she would not put any time limit on the calls she made to prospects. She got rid of the clock on her desk and decided that she would not have a daily call quota, or any call quota for that matter—just a single quota for how many appointments she scheduled.
When she did this a very interesting thing happened. Gretchen, instead of suppressing her natural tendencies, started letting them guide her. She spent much more time with those she talked with. She got to know them and to understand their needs much better. She once even told me about a call where she learned about the caller’s teenage daughter, what her name was, how often she was home alone, where she was going to college, and even what she was majoring in. This was typical of the level of communication Gretchen was having with the people she talked with. She was really connecting with these people.
Instead of trying to force herself to ignore her empathy, Gretchen was now using that natural talent to connect with people on a much deeper level than the rest of the sales reps were. Doing so meant that she spent a lot more time with each person, and made only as few as twenty to twenty-five calls per day. But doing so also meant that she was establishing relationships with people; rela-tionships that were returning results. Despite the fact that Gretchen was making less than 20% of the calls the other reps were, she still averaged to book three to five appointments each day. Even better than that, instead of the company average of one signed contract for every five appointments, Gretchen was averaging two signed con-tracts for every five appointments.
Pretty soon, the field sales people were fighting to see who would get to call on the appointments that Gretchen had scheduled, because they knew their odds of making a sale were a lot better.
The lesson here is that by turning left and becoming inauthentic Gretchen was hurting her performance. When she started turning right, though, and became authentic, not only did her performance reach the expected levels, but actually exceeded them. When she was inauthentic, she was no more satisfied with her job than the job was satisfied with her. Now that she is authentic, she views her job as a vehicle for her passion for meeting and helping people, and now she is as satisfied with the job as it is with her.
If you ask the field sales representatives whom they want booking their appointments, they will tell you, “Gretchen, man, she is a genius at finding people who buy.”
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