People power – ABC Day 2 report

Tuesday's ABC in Las Vegas had two core themes running through a day of seminars and workshops - people skills and technology trends and platforms.

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Tuesday’s ABC in Las Vegas had two core themes running through a day of seminars and workshops – people skills and technology trends and platforms.

Starting off day two of an event is never an easy task, especially when you’ve been enjoying a Las Vegas night with your peers, possibly into the early hours. But all three early morning sessions really pulled in the crowds – two three-hour workshops on leadership (Brian Biro, Brian Biro Enterprises) and sales and customer satisfaction (Dennis Chopko, Killing Herb), plus a presentation by Troy Harrison of Troy Harrison & Associates on Power Interviewing: Better Hires through Better Interviewing Skills.

Lively, interactive and entertaining, all three sessions were led by experts in their field. Harrison had already proved his mettle on Monday in his Smart Sales Hiring presentation and Tuesday’s session too was filled with a plethora of helpful pointers on how to hire and how not to hire.

Harrison quoted a statistic from the Wall Street Journal survey: 63% of sales hiring decisions are made within the first five minutes of meeting the candidate.

Whether that, of course, turns out to be the right decision, is another question altogether. Because, as Harrison said, the only thing you can really deduce from those five first minutes is whether you essentially like the interviewee or not.

It’s interesting then that interviewing techniques tend to deviate quite considerably from that vantage point depending on that like or dislike. But they shouldn’t, warned Harrison. Even if you already like the person, that doesn’t mean he/she is qualified for the job, and it’s still very important to ask all the right and all the tough questions.

“Don’t ignore the red flags telling you that the person in front of you will fail and at all times remain emotionally uninvolved. Usually in interviews, people are going to show off their absolute best. It’s your job to look for the chinks in the armour.”

From that first, CV-focused, interview there will be other, follow-on interviews, added Harrison, and they are more “inclusive” and contain a variety of behavioural – direct or indirect – interviewing skills. These, he said, “seek to establish job fit by matching past situations and actions to likely future situations”.

Finding – and retaining – the best sales people in our industry is clearly something that is sparking plenty of interest and that, apparently, hasn’t been mastered yet by many.

Founder & CEO of The Business Performance Group, Luke Chapman’s session in the afternoon on Creating an Effective and Proactive Internal Sales Team, was a popular repeat of the same session on Monday. It dealt with how to make better use of the existing team you have, rather than adding new recruits.

Firstly, he said, a dealer has to have a clear strategy and plan. “Review where you as a company are at, carry out a skills gap analysis of your people and decide what raw materials you are working with. Can you refocus existing people in areas such as customer service to become more sales focused, or do you need to recruit or invest in an outsourced partner?”

Chapman gave six real-life examples of businesses similar to those that took part in the session, and demonstrated how they achieved an ROI with some simple plans and processes.

The session concluded with a bit of future-gazing, part of which also related to the question of Big Data.

Technology trends

E-commerce and mobile commerce trends, new technology platforms and web store tools were the subject of several other afternoon sessions. All of these were designed to help dealers become more competitive while at the same time leveraging the playing field with bigger and more experienced players in the e-commerce arena.

From mobile apps and on-demand sales and business intelligence solutions to web analytics, companies like The Thalerus Group, GOPD and ECi were on hand to explain the importance of getting on board, demystify the technology and explain to dealers why this will help them expand into new markets, improve margins, drive online sales and increase customer retention.

Women in leadership

Going back to the morning sessions, however, there was one that had a slightly different angle to it. It was also about people, but one specific set of people: women, or to be precise, women in leadership.

Sponsored jointly by SP Richards and Office Products Women in Leadership (OPWIL), and introduced by OPWIL founder Krista Moore, this event set out to help women to become – or remain – good leaders.

The title of this session might have suggested that the room would be completely full of women, but not so. In fact – and apologies if this sounds predictable or even sexist – it looked like a role, or gender, reversal of a typical office products conference 10-15 years ago. That is to say, that there were a few males scattered across the room that could be considered onlookers rather than active participants in the session.

But both genders could surely learn something from session speaker Colette Carlson who educated and entertained her audience with wit, charm and a few, sometimes uncomfortable, home truths.

Her mantra – ‘speak your truth’ – resonated well with the audience and is, as she eloquently explained, very different to ‘speak your mind’. “Speak your truth is thoughts, words and actions all aligning together and that is what you need to do to become a good leader. Nobody is going to follow you if you don’t walk the walk. As leaders we need to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations, but we need to have these uncomfortable conversations in a healthy, vigorous and respectful manner.”

And while Carlson highlighted many traits that could be characterised as specifically female, and which might indeed stand in the way of achieving the goal of becoming a good leader, the overall message could very easily be applied to male leaders as well as females.