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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the WOMEN IN SALES Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosted by Gina Stracuzzi on September 22, 2020. It featured Expel Sales Leader Denise Hayman.]
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EPISODE 277: Women in Sales Leader Denise Hayman Says These Critical Traits Will Help You Accelerate Your Sales Career
DENISE’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “I love the word ‘imagine’. If you are helping someone imagine a better outcome, not only are you problem-solving with them but you are taking them to a better world. It means that you’ve asked them enough questions that you can say, “Can you imagine a world where that is different? Can you imagine where those problems that you just talked about go away? What does that look like?” Sales professionals need to work on getting customers to feel that emotional connection, getting them to really feel the difference between just a regular conversation and one where you leave them feeling, “Yes, I can see a better thing, I can get there!”
Gina Stracuzzi: Denise Hayman is someone I’ve been waiting to have on the show because she’s such a fabulous example of a woman sales leader that has really made it to the top of her game and has a lot to share with us. Denise, welcome and tell us about yourself.
Denise Hayman: Excited to be here too, Gina, thank you. We’ve been planning this for a while so glad that it’s finally here. In terms of me, I’ve been in the sales leadership side for a while, a combination of startup companies and larger companies. I actually started my sales career at Symantec on the security side and grew up with them, went off and did startups and I find myself here at another startup in Virginia at Expel as the Chief Revenue Officer. I grew my skills over time and plied my wares across different types. What I love about sales – if I could divert for just a second – is the thing that we do around translating technology needs into business buyer needs, that whole translation is really what makes it a fun scenario. The building teams around it is what I’ve enjoyed over many years doing this.
Gina Stracuzzi: I was looking at your bio and it’s really amazing all the things you’ve done and the level of experience and responsibility and how you’ve grown so much as a leader and throughout your career. I think that’s the kind of growth that everybody wants but sometimes eludes us. I think what we’re going to talk about today is a perfect setup for the conversation because women have what they need, but they don’t always use it from what I can see and what my guests tell us. Let’s just talk about all the insane changes that have happened over this year, it has been something no one could have predicted and if they wrote a book, everybody would say that’s just unrealistic, but here we are. Why don’t you take it from your perspective as a boss, as a manager, as a team leader, what the biggest shifts that you witnessed have been and what they mean for everybody?
Denise Hayman: There’s definitely been a lot of conversation about this. Here we sit in the end of September with no real change in sight, we’re definitely prepping for this being long-term for how we sell. The big shift especially for organizations that have large field organizations is just the fact that face-to-face is gone. Yes, there’s occasionally things that are coming up but the face-to-face, the trade shows, the ability to have lunch with prospective clients, all of that overnight went away. Then we started interacting in front of this TV screen like we’re doing today, so all of our interaction is 100% in whatever size monitor you have. How do you shift your selling game for that moment, for that time?
We’re big Zoom users and everybody uses a different platform but Zoom has democratized selling so it’s the same opportunity for everyone now because it doesn’t matter if you’re local, it doesn’t matter what your age is, your religion, your gender. All of that goes out the window, everybody now has the same opportunity to be able to sell in this platform. Then it becomes about how you engage and ensuring that you are engaging, that’s hard to do in this scenario. I know you have another guest happening later on this week that’s talking about how you use acting in the context of it. A lot of what we do around that engagement is asking questions and engaging and listening and really being there with the prospects and customers breaking this barrier and trying to figure out how you reach in and actually have a conversation with somebody over a screen. It’s changing everything in terms of how we interact.
Gina Stracuzzi: It is something that some people find far easier than others, some people are really great on the phone, other people aren’t and then you have people who just freeze in front of the screen. We had a guest a little while ago who told us all about how to be more animated, that really makes a difference especially now that people are fried on video. We have to find a way to keep moving forward in terms of what we do. Let’s flip that a little bit and talk about how the buyer’s needs have changed in relationship to what we’re trying to do through selling.
Denise Hayman: Good question. The way I think about it is buyer’s needs have been changing for a long time, the more accessible information is, their peers, their networks, they’re on our websites or from third parties, the less it becomes about the salesperson ensuring that they are talking about features and functionality and the more it becomes the salesperson’s job to add value in the process. That means for a prospective buyer, they’re trying to figure out how can what we’re doing or what we’re offering out to them be collaborative in nature to help them solve a problem? Because they’ve already figured it out at that point for the most part, maybe there’s some nuances in things they need to understand but for the most part they already know what they need. It’s up to us to be listening – again, the whole listening skills thing we’re going to talk about a lot here in terms of traits.
Listening and really being able to add value to that scenario. This is the beginning of my conversation around there are so many traits that make it really important for sellers right now and there are a lot of those traits that are historically better as females. That’s just in part of our nature and part of what we are, not to say that men don’t also have some of these traits but in my experience, it just comes a little bit more naturally to women sellers. We’re typically more listeners, we’re typically more about trying to problem-solve, trying to get in and really collaborate. We’ll talk about those traits as we go forward here but this is why I think right now is the absolute best time to be a woman in sales, because again, the screen means it’s absolutely up to us to find those things that break that barrier and then the kind of things that are important right now for sellers. Listening to buyers and collaborating with them are also natural traits that women tend to exhibit.
Gina Stracuzzi: As you say, the age-old everybody talks about it when they talk about the best helpers are the best listeners and women are – generally speaking – better listeners than men. Let’s go onto one of the traits that you feel are most inherent to women that they can capitalize and leverage. Tell us a little bit about what they are for you and why you think they’re so important.
Denise Hayman: Right to the heart of it, Gina. First of all, I think it’s important to understand the difference between a trait and a skill. A trait by definition is something that a person exhibits that is just part of their personality, it’s not something that can be taught, its who they are. It’s something you have or something you don’t and not to say that you can’t get better at traits, you can’t enhance your skills and enhance certain areas in this, but from a trait perspective, it is very specific to that. I think about things like are you patient or not? Many people will tell you that I am not, that is just something about me, I have a high sense of urgency, my team that are listening to this are all laughing at me now. Are you thoughtful or not? Are you optimistic? Are you driven? What are those things that make you a part of that personality? As opposed to a skill which is something that can be learned, can you close? Are you good at prospecting? Are you a fast runner? These are all skills and things that typically can be taught. Then there’s always experiences that play into it as well which is how have you applied those to a certain situation? As I look at candidates, I look at traits, skills and experiences, it’s the combination that really makes the whole person.
You asked about traits, so specifically when I think about traits that make the best sellers – again, never mind women or men at this point, but the traits that make the best sellers – I think about three main things. #1 is curiosity and when I say curiosity I mean the ability to ask a question and listen to the answer so that you’re not queuing for that next question. You are listening and following along, you’re engaging, you’re creating that conversation, you’re not going through a list. I told a story on one of the other podcasts earlier this year with you all where early in my sales career I had been taught that what we do when we get a potential prospect on the phone is, “Here are the 10 questions that you need to ask.” I had been chasing one particular prospect for many weeks, finally got them on the phone and started down my questions, I was really excited. “Here’s question 1, question 2, question 3” and he stopped me in the middle and said, “I’m sorry, is this a survey?” because I wasn’t listening and that was my natural gift. It is one of the things I consider myself to be really good at is listening and understanding and forming the next question based on that and I wasn’t using my natural talent.
Curiosity is really a combination of listening and asking good questions, not just yes/no questions, there’s arts to questions and all of that. The other thing about curiosity is that there’s this survey I saw recently where it was saying that 74% of buyers were more likely to buy if they feel like they have been listened to, not just sold to, not just talked at but actually listened to. You can’t really listen to somebody unless you’re asking them good questions. At Expel we track the amount of listening time versus speaking time – there’s a lot of great sales conversation tools out there, in particular we use Gong – and it’s got a range. 43% is actually the number you need to be at in terms of percent listening versus speaking so we track against that, it’s very much a trait and a thing that we want to continue enhancing. So #1, curiosity.
Number Two is problem-solving and collaboration. We talked before a little bit about the whole ‘where buyer’s needs are today’ in terms of they come already understanding already what they’re looking for, so it’s up to us to enter into it with them in that point and help them collaborate through to their problem-solving. I’m in technology sales, I’ve been in technology sales pretty much my entire sales career and we’re dealing with a lot of logical buyers, these are people that for the most part, come up from some sort of engineering side and they need data, they need logic, they need step-by-step, they need to understand it. The interesting thing is that even in that world, people buy emotionally still. Even in that situation, so problem-solving but making sure that we are enabling that value and in my world, that’s reducing risk, that is enhancing productivity, it’s things that are part of their problem, being there with them, showing them that you’re there.
The Number Three trait is a one that I know you all have talked about before, which is emotional intelligence. This has been talked a lot about this year in particular because it’s been such a trying year for everybody. Let’s define it, I think about it as the ability to manage emotions no matter what life has thrown at you which we’ve certainly seen a lot of this year. It means that you have to be aware of those around you, you can’t just be dealing with your own emotions, you’ve got to be dealing with not only what’s going on for you but what’s going on for them. In sales, we deal with this all the time. We have issues come up, we have last-minute purchasing situations, contract situations, we’re dealing with some of those right now and it’s all about how you deal with that. Do you go into tell mode? “I’m going to tell you how you need to change this” or do you go into, “Hang on, let’s back up here and have a real conversation about what it is we’re all trying to accomplish and where we are”, tying them back in. That ability to step back with some maturity and use your emotional gifts, your intuition gifts to be able to change that situation around, these are all things that are break-through situations around that engagement. Those are my top 3 traits that I believe make the best salespeople and there’s all kinds of studies out there that show it.
If you think about it – again, I’m not making any big judgements here – curiosity, problem-solving, collaboration, emotional intelligence tend to be traits that women have great expertise in. Again, not to say that men don’t have it, I’ve met plenty of men that have all of these scenarios as well but they’re gifts that we have as a woman that are not fully utilized in the sales scenario. It’s my belief and I believe that right now is our exact right time as women in sales to be using those because of this screen that we’re interacting in, because of the need to engage, because of the need to be able to collaborate with where buyers are. Everything has gone back to a playing field so it’s our time to use our gifts to change and break that Zoom barrier that we have.
Gina Stracuzzi: Thinking about all these points that you raise and all these traits that are inherent to women, why do you think that more women or perhaps more sales teams are not encouraging women to use these more often? Why do you think they get stuck with the process more than the manner?
Denise Hayman: I’ve always believed personally that there’s a combination of art and science in sales and I think what we’re talking about here is the art of it that is also backed up by science, there are lots of studies out there that we can talk about if you want. The art of it in terms of the ‘how we engage’, I think this is really coming to life now. Most sales process methodologies don’t cover that, they cover the, “We’re going to teach you how to close, we’re going to teach you how to negotiate, we’re going to teach you how to position our product features and sometimes benefits” – hopefully more benefits than not – but very rarely do we talk about the how, the emotional interchange, the engagement, great story writing.
At Expel we talk about we make space for people to do what they love in security which is very much an antithesis with what security buyers in general think that they’re looking for. There’s no one that’s like, “Let me search for the thing that’s going to help me love doing security again.” It’s not a thing and it’s been two years now that I’ve been here, when I first came to the company I thought, “This is such a weird thing for us to talk about.” Then as I got more engaged with it and understanding that really what we’re doing is we’re helping them fall in love again with the thing that they decided to do. We’re using that emotion and the more we talk about it, the more we engage to – you can talk about it as engaging to your purpose, to your why – again, this year if it hasn’t shown us anything else, it’s about making sure that we’re engaging around what’s important. Helping our customers and our buyers also engage around that area, being vulnerable and open and really engaging emotionally. It’s just a perfect time for women to use these gifts in this scenario to be able to engage at that level. I just thing the sales process methodologies haven’t caught up yet for the most part.
Gina Stracuzzi: I tend to agree. In the Women in Sales leadership forum we have a whole session on emotional intelligence and then another whole session on trusting your intuition. When women move away from that and they don’t, your intuition told you that you shouldn’t be just asking this slew of questions…
Denise Hayman: [Laughs] well, my prospect told me that, too.
Gina Stracuzzi: You did what you were told. I think it’s giving yourself permission to listen to what you know is right and measure that situation for what it is, and then utilize it, go with it. The results are bound to be better than if you read everything off a script.
Denise Hayman: It’s courage to do things differently and follow along with your intuition, just believing in yourself in that moment.
Gina Stracuzzi: Let’s get back to the traits a little bit and why women make the absolute best sellers. Can you compare and contrast natural traits with men’s natural traits and how they differ? You hit on it a little bit but let’s take it maybe a step further, and how women can use their natural traits and gifts to really fly ahead in terms of selling.
Denise Hayman: I don’t necessarily like to think about it as differences, I think about it more as areas for any individual person to shine. From a traits perspective looking at how you improve your listening, how you improve your questions, that could be for a man or a woman, it doesn’t really matter. If you follow along and you’re now asking the next question based on what the prospect answered, that’s a totally new game.
I was on a sales call not with my team but somebody who was trying to sell me something a couple of weeks ago and we were just catching up at the beginning, asking questions, figuring out where everyone’s from and I answered his questions. Then he asked me the same question again and I expanded on the first question, and then he asked me another question as if he hadn’t even heard my answer. Right away trust is gone, the whole, “Are they ever really going to listen about what it is we’re trying to accomplish?” I don’t believe that person ever will, it’s a game changer in this environment where all you have is this engagement, you have no other way to tell how you’re going to engage. I think whether it’s women or men, there’s a lot of game that is won and lost based on listening and asking questions 100%. It just happens that women have some more natural talents in this area, I’ve seen it over and over again and studies show it over and over again that this is something that we’re naturally good at. It’s a trait of ours.
Gina Stracuzzi: Can you talk a little bit about some of the studies that you’ve read and some of the numbers that you’ve come across that back this up?
Denise Hayman: There’s a study that was done by, I think it’s ZS Associates which is an HR consulting company and it was talking about emotional intelligence in selling. Again, not mattering whether it was women or men, views of who has most. The study showed that the salespeople that had high emotional intelligence outperformed people who did not have or were slightly less – they called the moderates – by 50%. 50% in my world is a lot of difference so 50% better at outcomes, at hitting quota, at all of that, just with that emotional intelligence piece. The ability to manage your emotions, deal with things as they come and be mature in that moment, that was #1, emotional intelligence.
The second one is, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it exactly, there’s a sales compensation software, I think this was a study done last year. They have 300,000 salespeople whose compensation they manage, they’re a SaaS platform and they compared women sellers and men sellers and 86% of the women that they tracked in their sales software had made quota in this last year compared to 78% of men who made quota last year. 8% difference between men and women in terms of their ability to make quota. You could say the sample size is smaller for women which also makes it harder but for sure, in my world it ends up being 80% or 90% men and very few women which is something you and I’ve talked about, working to change that scenario. That study was really interesting because they had a great cross-section of all types of products, all types of scenarios, all types of solutions and 86% of women versus 78% hit their quota showing outperformance there. Those two studies, I think validate what we’re talking about in terms of women and their gifts.
Gina Stracuzzi: That’s pretty amazing. Let’s talk about how a client responds to listening. Do you have any numbers about the difference between if a client feels like they’re being listened to, how more often they’re buying from salespeople that are known to listen better?
Denise Hayman: I was talking about Gong, I’m a big analytics person, it’s the science part of the ‘art and science’ piece of it. Their studies, what they do is they look at all top sellers and say, “What are the traits and skills of all top sellers?” Top sellers outperform moderate sellers by significant amounts. In the listening world, again this percentage thing, 46% of the time listening is what top sellers accomplished. It was much higher, like 67% for less successful seller so that again proves to me that the listening piece and making sure buyers are heard is extremely important. That other study that I was talking about saying that 74% of buyers were saying that they were more likely to buy from somebody when they felt like they were listened to. It’s hard to measure feelings but you can look at how long somebody speaks, how long they answer, how they engage, what words they use, all of those kinds of things are important in that engagement especially in this screen that we’re talking about.
Gina Stracuzzi: All of those things are really important to know. I want to ask you, and this might be an opinion but you’re also an employer of the people so you have background to back this up. If women have all these traits that make us so good at selling, why are the number of women in sales and sales leadership so low?
Denise Hayman: That is a great question and one I think about a lot. We’re a fast-growing company and I would like nothing better, this would give me an advantage, as you can see the numbers show and the analysis shows it, to have more women on the team. It is really hard to find women sellers who have stuck with it, have gone through the early phases of selling and decided that this is a profession they want to be in. Again, as you said, these are my opinions but my opinions are that there’s two things that make the difference. #1 is for me, I was lucky enough to have people early in my career that helped show me the differences and were celebrating the things that made me a good seller, that happened to be a lot of these things we’re talking about.
At the same time, they saw it as an advantage, not a disadvantage. They weren’t looking at gender, they were looking at success and continued to support me in that scenario. I can think of three or four people along in my early career who did that for me, so then I started believing in myself and understanding that I had some talent in this area to be able to continue to expand on. I’ve said this on a couple of panel discussions before, for me the difference when I look at those people that were supported versus not, there tends to be strong women in their life. It is a strong relationship with their mom, with their grandmother, have daughters that they care about so they have exposure to strong women and understand our gifts as opposed to see it as different. There’s definitely been a pattern, I can take you through it on another occasion.
#2 is that dogged persistence. For me, my choice in being in sales is about having the freedom to be able to create our own income. For me, that freedom piece was really important and I tapped into that and understood that early on and then have developed that not only in me but in those around me. I knew somebody early on that said, “I was a great salesperson, I don’t know if I was an excellent salesperson. I’m a much better leader than I was an individual contributor” so it’s about following your gifts and having mentors and people that support you along the way.
Gina Stracuzzi: That’s two of the things that the women leaders that we’ve had come in and present to the forum have really talked about. One thing that you struck on is having a mentor. Having a mentor really is the one piece of advice that every leader that’s come through has talked to us about, finding that can be sometimes difficult and sometimes it has to be outside your firm. The other thing they talked about was the financial freedom, but it’s also the freedom to get up and go to your kid’s afternoon event because as long as you’re making your numbers, you’ve got the freedom to stop at 3 o’clock if you want to. That’s something that most women can’t get if they’re in a regular job. I think if more women could start to appreciate that they already have a lot of the gifts they need to be successful and it can give you financial independence and a certain amount of family freedom, then maybe it looks more attractive.
Denise Hayman: Excellent point. This is the only career I know of that the more I spend my time and my energy at, directly affects the amount of money I make so it’s my choice.
Gina Stracuzzi: There are a lot of hardworking people in the world who don’t get equally monetized for their efforts, selling is just one of those beautiful things for sure. What else would you like us to think about when we think about how to make curiosity, collaboration and emotional intelligence work for us? What would your advice be to women who are already in the field? How can they start putting these things to work for themselves right away? How will they see results?
Denise Hayman: I feel like a little bit of a broken record [laughs] but this whole listening and asking questions thing. That is something that everyone can improve on, making sure that you are continuing to expand your gifts in that area and really honing in on that and practicing collaborating, practicing problem-solving, those are extremely important in life, never mind in sales. It will only make you a better salesperson.
In the art and science of things there are a couple of other things that I have found to be really important in terms of, let’s talk about them as pronouns. The words that people use especially in this scenario become really important and from a scenario of collaboration, we talked about that collaborating right now being really important not only for women sellers, for all sellers. Coming to the table at that moment where somebody’s looking forward to having you help solve their problem versus just telling them what you think. There’s a big difference between being able to engage someone in a collaborative way when you are speaking to them as opposed to speaking to something generic. The difference between saying, “Your users will get benefit because…” and saying, “You will actually get benefit”, really digging into that personalization. Direct, “This is what you will get out of this” versus something generic that might be written from some copywriter about what your solution actually does. This is a big difference in that engagement theory, being able to really engage at an individual level with what an individual person will get out of it as opposed to the company or whatever other scenario there. That’s one, really paying attention to utilizing your pronouns.
There’s a second word that I really love which is this idea, I was telling you before about how Expel talks about making space for doing what you love, I love the word ‘imagine’. If you are helping someone imagine a better outcome, not only are you problem-solving with them but you are bringing them to a better world. It can’t be you’re telling them to imagine, it means to be that you’ve asked them enough questions that you can say, “I’m putting this together, stay with me for a minute here. Can you imagine a world where that is different? Can you imagine a setup where those problems that you just talked about go away? What does that look like?” Getting them to feel it, that emotional connection, getting them to really feel the difference between just a regular conversation and something where you leave them like, “Yeah, I can see a better thing, I can get there.
Now I’m going to do something about changing that.” I love those two words, it’s just thinking about using those two words, doing a direct ‘you’ and wording everything that way and then taking customers and prospects into an imagination, a vision, a future state place. They’re huge ways that you can implement pretty easily because you can’t do imagination without asking good questions, you can’t do imagination if you’re not listening, you can’t do imagination if you’re not collaborating. You can’t speak to someone unless you’ve broken this Zoom barrier down and engaged them, you have to have accomplished that already. I like those two as quick and dirty things that people can do to make a difference.
Gina Stracuzzi: You had mentioned those to me when we were first talking and they’re words that you incorporate. Can you share with the audience what you shared with me in terms of the kinds of increased sales happen when you use these two words?
Denise Hayman: I can tell you that when I’ve correlated those words – again, you have to have some sort of conversational intelligence situation to be able to look at this or something that can track the words – I definitely see a correlation between people that are using direct personalized conversation and also people that are using words that are helping prospects and customers get to the next better place. That might be imagine, it might be vision, it might be some other conversation. Those two things are very highly correlated, at least in my experience, to our best sellers. Those are the people that not only get customers on board with what they’re trying to do but also that means they’re achieving quota, they’re creating stickiness with those customers around having trust. I talk a lot about trust, that’s the other thing is that if our buyers don’t trust us, then it’s really hard to have stickiness over time. Creating trust in that relationship is really important.
Gina Stracuzzi: The numbers that I was teasing out of you a little bit was you had said that there was almost a 30% increase in using the word ‘you’. In combination with ‘imagine’, that went up exponentially more. Those are the kinds of things that people can implement immediately and see some kind of result.
Denise Hayman: Thank you for bringing that back around, you’re right. One of the studies that I’ve seen talks about this and it’s direct personal conversation increases the sales success by 30% which is fantastic, anything that changes something that dramatically is something worth doing. It’s an easy thing to do and that visioning collaboration is another 20% or so, so having those two would have huge impact in terms of outcome for sure.
Gina Stracuzzi: Unbelievably, we’re just about out of time. This conversation was riveting. You and I talked about maybe having you on again at some point and talking about hiring and retaining women salespeople, and that’s something I really hope we get a chance to explore because I think you’re not the only one to be struggling with trying to find women who want to sell and who are good at it. All of us could be good at it if we accepted it and embraced it, but where do you find them? Then once you do, how do you hang onto them? I think that’s an important conversation for the VPs of Sales and the CEOs that listen in on these webcasts that IES does every week. I hope you will come back and talk to us about that. People can find you on LinkedIn, correct?
Denise Hayman: LinkedIn is a great place, email is always good, it’s email@example.com, that’s another way to reach me.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo