Measuring our most important activities

Volume 14 Letter 4

Feedback is a powerful tool. Many of you reading this newsletter know that I was a speed skater and represented Canada internationally. When I first came on the speed skating team there were no such things as video cameras and instant replay. We had to rely on our coaches to tell us what we were doing right or wrong. When video cameras hit the scene the equipment came in a box the size of a coffin. Lugging this overweight trunk around the world from one event to another was part of our weight training (or so it seemed). However, the feedback provided by this bulky piece of kit had a direct impact on performance. In a sport measured in 1/100s of a second, outcomes improved by seconds.

In business, the single most important activity is the interaction between a company representative and a customer. Like athletes back before video cameras, sales reps today rely on feedback from managers regarding their ability to establish rapport with their customers. To encourage more successful rep/customer interactions some companies measure number of calls, frequency, sampling, sales detail order etc. Some even go so far as to give reps a script. However, no one can quantify what everyone is trying to develop – customer rapport.

Companies spend millions on events, dinners, trips etc. trying to build a better rapport with their customers and for sound reasons – good rapport is good for business! But how do we improve something that we can’t measure? And if we could measure rapport (people’s ability to connect with others) would it make a difference? Using sociometric badges to capture behavior, MIT scientists have cracked the problem and can provide an accurate assessment of rapport building. In a previous newsletter we discussed how company performance was significantly improved when people got feedback on their interpersonal interactions from data recorded on these sociometric badges. However, in a sales call, if only the sales person wears the badge can we still measure rapport?

Quantifying the Intangible

Sociometric technology quantifies human interactions that were previously immeasurable. The badges measure, in one second intervals, communication patterns, speech tone, cadence, behavior patterns, spatial effects, interruptions, mimicry, etc. When data is collected from a sales team the speech and behavioral patterns of “highly successful” reps are displayed graphically and compared with the same data from “less effective” reps. The distinctions are significant! Like we speed skaters seeing ourselves for the first time on video tape, the sales reps can see obvious flaws in their ability to create rapport with their customers and make appropriate corrections. Some of the corrections are as simple as speaking louder or leaning forward in your chair while others are more difficult – like speaking less or not interrupting.

Should anyone be thinking 1984 and Big Brother – dismiss the thought. Words are not recorded. But performance is and reps using this program at one pharmaceutical company increased sales by 20% in what was previously a flat market. Bonuses went through the roof accordingly as did company profits. Only when we measure something can we improve it. Sociometric technology lets us measure our capacity to connect with others. Start quantifying the intangible – measure your customer interactions and improve your sales teams’ performance!

Figure 1 Sociometric badge captures interaction data including speaking time: A balanced speaking and silence time increases rapport thus increasing selling opportunities

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