Andrew Sykes is the Founder of Habits at Work, and author of an excellent book titled, “The 11th Habit: Design Your Company Culture to Foster the Habits of High Performance.” This is such a fun conversation. I love it when I have the chance to talk with people who I believe really get it. Who understand in reality, not the fake world of so many sales trainers, really understand what it takes to connect with other people and help influence the choices and decisions they make to achieve the business outcomes they desire. In this episode we talk the 10 Habits of High-Performance that Andrew spells out in his book.
Andy Paul: Andrew. Welcome to the show.
Andrew Sykes: Thank you for having me, Andy, I’m thrilled to be on your show.
Andy Paul: Thank you. That’s very nice of you. I’m thrilled to have you here. You, where have you been sheltering during the pandemic?
Andrew Sykes: In Chicago, it’s a, the longest period of my adult life that I’ve not been on an airplane. So that’s been an interesting change of pace.
Andy Paul: You’re like many of the people I speak to and many of the people I know, obviously in sales soup, like myself, I’ve had just yeah. It’s been one, one flight in the last since the beginning of March. So that’s unprecedented for me. I’m usually, I certainly have had periods of my career.
I’ve been on it every week as it is. I usually fly a couple of times a month and yeah, not anymore. I’ve asked my wife, I was telling a story about my wife when I was taking that first flight. It was in. June, we’re flying from New York to San Diego, or I catch it right at the end of may. And she, sorry, caught me paused in the middle of the room.
Not really moving. She says, what’s the problem. And I said I’d forgotten how to pack had been such a developed muscle. I knew where everything went instantly. I didn’t have to write a list or anything. I just knew. And then suddenly it’s Oh, where’s everything go.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, it’s a developed skill. Those shortcuts we take through airports, the way you get through TSA security instead of skills that are no use at all right now.
Andy Paul: Okay, but, so here’s the question for it though. Andrew, do you miss it?
Andrew Sykes: I did initially find a lot of relief because I was on airplanes three or four days a week away from home a lot. And I was a welcome change. But now I have to say, I miss it. I like being with my customers. Face-to-face I love being in a room with people. I like the productivity I enjoy on an airplane. I never buy the wifi.
So if I’m flying from New York to San Diego, I’ve got four hours and I’m just super focused. So there’s a lot about it that I miss. And of course there’s a lot that I could happily never experience. Again, some of the worst parts of airport, some of the food
Unbalanced, I must be in an airplane only because I love getting to the other side.
Andy Paul: People asked me because I had spent about 15 years, one period, traveling overseas all the time, hundreds of thousands of miles per year. And people said, did you love it? And I said to your point, Oh, I love being there. That part in between getting there, getting back, not so fun.
Andrew Sykes: It’s probably a good analogy for selling, we love closing the deal. It’s the getting there and it can be challenging sometimes.
Andy Paul: That’s true. Definitely just skip all the early stages of a deal. That’d be perfect. Actually not because that’s really, when you get to know people, but so let me ask you is, and cause this is actually going to tie a little bit to comments I just made as is, and the conversation is so what’s the single biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself personally, during the pandemic.
Andrew Sykes: I can still get the enjoyment of leading people through a course. Virtually the first week of doing it. And we were very lucky in our business. We had taken all of our curriculum virtual two years ago in response to our global clients saying we have people in multiple time zones, figure it out. And so we were ready for this, but I have to say we still had 90% of our work was live.
Instructor led training. And what I was worried about was that I couldn’t recreate that connection with another human being or a group of human beings. And so what I’ve learned is that with a lot of expert moves and intentionality, you can create that human to human connection. Despite the technology barriers.
Andy Paul: So let’s dig into that. So what did you do differently in order to make those connections?
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, a couple of things. One is slowing down and having empathy for the fact that people are distracted when you’re communicating over zoom or meet. And so you need to create more space for the same amount of work that you could get done live. The second I’ve learned is the most difficult thing to do is to stare into that green dot your camera on your screen while you’re presenting, so that other people feel like they’re looking at you rather than looking down when you seeing the video.
And then the third thing is that actually there is less difference in virtual versus live. Provided that you’re doing both well. And, I’d had expected to come out of, there is a completely different set of skills for virtual versus live, and there are some nuances for sure but it’s more the same than it is different.
Andy Paul: Okay. That’s yeah, I’ve been on the soap box since the pandemic started. When everybody started cranking out this content and these avalanche of books being published about virtual selling. That’s yeah it’s more of the same. Lennon’s different. And I think you’re absolutely right.
There are nuances. You want to make sure you get right. But the effective behaviors that you have to present in order to be good at selling in a face-to-face world or pre pandemic world. Are the same.
Andrew Sykes: And I do think there are many advantages to virtual that allow us to meet more. People, spend more time with them than when we had to spend an hour a day or four hours a day on an airplane or in a taxi getting to our customers. So the trade off is not all a loss. I do think there’s gains and losses on both sides of this transaction.
Andy Paul: Sure. But let me ask you, this is pre pandemic. When your, you or your team were selling your services to a client. Typically, what did that engage? What did that look like? That process? How often would you meet your clients that weren’t based in Chicago, where you are? This is how many would, how often would you meet with them?
Face-to-face to close a deal ever or once, twice, what did it typically look like?
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, For Chicago based clients where we’re based. We would typically have 75% of our meetings face to face because it was an option that was the default and it worked wonderfully. And we may take them to lunch afterwards. And for our national clients or global clients, it, most of it was virtual anyway, but they usually was this point when people wanted to see you live.
And so we’d get on an airplane and go and close the deal. It’s that part that’s being replaced. And I’m not sure that anyone really misses it.
Andy Paul: Yeah, but that’s my point is this is the thing that serve pet peeve drives me nuts. Whatever is when people talk about, this new thing, this virtual selling, and it’s how are you using travel and face-to-face meetings in the first place, right? Use them to advance the deal, but if you didn’t need to use one to specifically advance a deal at a certain time, Do it virtually, I was, I started my international sales career back in 1985 and I won’t sound myself too old. I was selling multimillion dollar deals primarily for the phone back then. I that’s telecom. It was, virtual selling started when Alexander Graham bell invented the telephone.
Andrew Sykes: Selling over the phone versus selling over zoom or meet where you can actually see someone’s face. Technology has made it a lot simpler to sell virtually that’s for sure.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. All right. We’re in violent agreement. Let’s not beat that to death. So you just published a book called the 11th habit, design your company culture to foster the habits of high performance. One of the reasons I was interested in speaking with you is because this idea of performance improvement is big for me because I think on balance.
Sales organizations fail to be able to coach people and train people to improve their performance. And you’ve got an interesting take. It’s something that I’m seeing more people talk about, and this is your 11th habit. We can go through your 10 habits of high performance. I think. You’re spot on in those again, found myself nodding my head at those yeah.
Practice deliberately. Listen, empathetically, ask powerful questions to learn deeply. Keep your word to build your trust, which is huge, straight out of the speed of trust. Stephen Mr. Covey tell stories to change minds now that’s this is an interesting one. This is your fifth habit. Tell stories to change minds. So I wonder in a sales perspective, and this is some talking purely from a sales perspective, I’ll get more, as we tell stories to help people make up their minds. And I think this is I just wondering what you think about that. Cause I had this conversation with Jonah Berger who wrote this book, the catalyst about how to change anyone’s mind.
And I was like, yeah, I think in sales, if you’re trying to, if you think you’re in a position or you’re trying to change, someone’s mind you’re on the wrong path because you really want to help them make up their minds.
Andrew Sykes: I think that’s an interesting distinction and I’m not sure that it’s one or the other, because my view is there are a few. Customers who are just waiting for you to show up with a solution, that’s exactly a fit for what they’re trying to solve, and then they buy from you. So they are, I always like to respect customers deeply and assume that they have already been trying to solve their issues or challenges.
They already have a plan for how they’re going to do and that plan probably didn’t include you. Now, it may have included the idea that I needed a vendor or a partner, but unlikely had you in mind, if that were the case would just be taking orders. Therefore, I do think that the essence of sales is helping customers to make up their mind.
And sometimes that means to change the plans for how they were going to solve a problem too. A new plan for how they’re going to solve a problem. What I am careful about is not to collapse, changing someone’s mind with manipulating them in any sense, but I do believe that the art of selling is having people make up their mind about a course of action.
That includes you, your products and your services. Yes.
Andy Paul: Absolutely. It’s been researched. Paul Nutt does the one most famously serves associated with that who says there’s always a choice that precedes a decision, right? Which is so when customers look to solve a problem, they have to define what the problem is. They evaluate the alternatives and create a set of options about how to solve the problem.
And they always choose one of those options. One of which could be to do nothing. But then they choose one of those options. Sales should be about helping the customer make that choice. And then they follow that. They follow the choice of the decision about who are we going to implement this choice with?
Andrew Sykes: That’s interesting. You say that because I’ve come to the conclusion that buyers decide that they want to buy from you before they decide what they want to buy from your company. And I know it feels like that’s wrong. Yeah.
Andy Paul: No, but that’s, and I don’t think that’s that contradicts what I was just saying. I think that’s one of the early parts of the whole, in fact, it’s the first choice the buyer makes, which is, as I say, this is the universal question that’s asked not just in sales, but certainly in sales and we’ll put in other environments as well.
But when you meet somebody and the desire is you want to help them somehow or sell them something. The first decision they always make is why you not you the company, but why you I learned that early in my career with early on I was just starting to sell computer systems and assigned to the construction industry.
And I cold called the CEO of a large construction company, home builder in the San Francisco area. And this was in person. I was going door to door and. And in a business park and the guy surprised me and showed up and took me into his office and very courtly old school gentleman. And I like newly trained sales person launched into my pitch and he listened to a few seconds of help.
His hand is that stop. And he opened his desk drawer or any of this magnificent, huge desk with nothing on it. And pulls out this deck of. Business cards, but two inches high from a, in his drawer and spread them out on the table in front of me. And these were business cards from every one of my competitors and everybody then from my office that ever sold a system in that area.
And he said, yeah, I’ve talked to all these sellers and I haven’t bought from any of them. Why should I buy from you? And it just dawned on me at that point. He was talking about me, not my company. It’s just an important lesson to learn early on.
Andrew Sykes: I think it’s, it is one of the most important lessons and it’s, especially because that decision may have been made even while a buyer is looking at your company and your products, side-by-side with others, they’re going through the motions. But I think the sale happened, three weeks ago when they decided I like this person more than that, I do have to do my due diligence.
I do want to see what features and benefits might be in vendor B that I can. Negotiating with a vendor. Hey, but it’s a little bit like that interview scenario. I think people have decided whether they’re going to hire someone in the first five minutes. We’ve judged whether we like someone in the first 180 seconds maybe.
And a lot of that is going on in sales. So my view is what does it look like to design your first impression so that it is a great impression that lasts through time.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I was just laughing cause it’s I had a whole chapter about that in my last book. And it’s yeah, the, this whole thing about pre-cognitive processing where people form perceptions of other people before the conscious of it. And so to your point, when you meet somebody, I think the research says, know people form perceptions within a quarter of a second, 250 milliseconds, the blink of an eye.
And it’s very hard to change those perceptions once they’ve been formed. And I have this conversation with sellers all the time about the small things matter, right? The little things matter. And one of the examples is follow up to your point was recently posted on LinkedIn about. I said, yeah, if I’m on a call with a seller and they call me pal or buddy, the conversation’s over and the occasions, huge engagement on LinkedIn, but a lot of sellers who are thinking what’s wrong with you, Andrea, you could be having a S this guy could be presenting you with this amazing business opportunity, and you’re going to bypass it cause call you pal. And I’m like, Yeah, this happens all the time.
Some people make up their minds about you.
Andrew Sykes: Absolutely. If more sellers realize that competitive differentiation happens at three levels, there’s, how your company compares to another and frankly, most buyers don’t really care.
Andy Paul: No.
Andrew Sykes: And then, yeah. And then there’s your product versus another, which is why enablement team spends so much time training on product.
What matters most is how you, this particular human being as a seller differs from the next person and the next person after you. In the way that you present yourself in what you call a tiny things, I would call it the manners of selling. Those things that have you stand apart because you have grace and poise and thoughtfulness where other people rush in with product, or they don’t clean up after themselves, is a favorite. One of my friend, Craig Wartman at the Kellogg Sales Institute, loves say when you leave a room, you think you’ve done a great presentation, remember that more than likely the executive assistant of your customer will be going in there and cleaning up. It takes you five minutes to clean up after yourself, clean a whiteboard, take away your glasses and your mess, and maybe it’ll make no difference. But maybe that person will notice and will say something. And it’s these little things that people notice that I think play a bigger role in selling than the big idea, the big price point, the great pitch and all these other things where most of sales is focused.
Andy Paul: All right. I’ve got a man crush on you. Yeah, this is fantastic. Cause this is the things that I focus on because this is what makes the difference. Think back on my experience, excuse me, and I came out of college. I’ve got a history degree and I’ve been in. Tech my entire career spent a good chunk of my career selling very large, very complex, very expensive satellite communication systems.
Yeah, I was, I knew enough about the product as a lay person, but yeah, I, wasn’t certainly not an expert. And by selling to some of the world’s largest companies, this is how I was able to make that happen. And it was. The relationships I built with people, the connections I made with people, they, the questions I ask it was the small stuff.
It wasn’t to your point, the product or the company. Cause I was selling for companies, startups that had no track record and no brand name.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, I do think it’s very useful for a seller at some point in their life to be part of an entrepreneurial venture where you’ve got maybe no product built, no customers, no reference points, no brand. Pretty much. It’s just you and an idea sitting in front of someone and you’re selling against IBM or Google or companies that have these amazing brands and products.
Now what you’ve got, none of that infrastructure behind you, how do you close a deal? And it’s all in your way of being your conversation mastery, the little things that will touch, move, and inspire another human being into action.
Andy Paul: Yeah. This is, yeah, absolutely. I’m just, yeah, sir. Rushing to tell things. Cause it all brings back stories like for me is I was in that situation. I joined a startup they’re trying to, or a small defense contractor. They’re doing a few million dollars a year when they wanted to start a commercial business and they had no products, they had technology and the CEO gave him a charter, which was, you can sell anything you want.
It’s just that we don’t have anything so you can sell anything you want. And the only thing stipulation was is the customer not only has to pay for the products, but they have to pay for our R and D to develop and build the products.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah.
Andy Paul: So go have fun. And it was, it was a lot of fun and yeah, I was competing against.
All the major tech companies. Yeah. At that time, too, for these mission critical applications than Wisa we had no track record, no brand name and yeah, it’s just people think that the personal isn’t important that it’s minimal importance these days, that you don’t need to be in connection with somebody don’t need a relationship.
You don’t need to be likable. And I just shake my head. I said, since when. People are still people. Why is this? How has this changed?
Andrew Sykes: And I think Andy, the other issue is if we look into the future of what’s likely to happen, we’re already in a world where sellers have a tech stack. To help them with cadence and outreach email and all of these things and buyers have a set of technology. And now we adding a layer of artificial intelligence on top of that.
So the question I’m obsessed with at the moment is when you take all the tasks away from a seller that you possibly can with wonderful technology, What remains for a seller to do 10 years from now in the middle of this great expense between me over here, my customer, a million pieces of technology away over there.
What is essentially human? But I’m still needed for as a seller or is it just going to be one bot selling to another? And my view is the thing that will remain essentially human and necessary in the sales process is our ability to connect with another human being through conversation. And I am betting that at least in our lifetimes, that’s the one piece that AI won’t remove from our skillset.
Andy Paul: Hello. I agree. A thousand percent. And if you’ve read Geoffrey Colvin’s book, humans are underrated. It talks about this at length where humans. Yeah. If we do have those rich situation where bots are more extensively involved in the interaction and buying and selling. What becomes the differentiation? How do you differentiate an automated buying experience from another it’s the human that will do that and his belief.
And I think he’s absolutely right. He talks about as the people that succeed in that environment or the people that learn how to become more intensely human. And that was a fabulous phrase.
Andrew Sykes: I love it. Where we describe our own business as helping people be more human beings and people often say what does that mean to be more of a human being? I’m already a complete human being. Thank you very much. And our response responses you right. And what are those skills that are simply irreplaceable?
Let’s build more of those. Knowing that who we are today is not a match for who our businesses will need on the bench two years from today.
Andy Paul: So I hadn’t really planned to go down this road, but let’s go follow that deck statement you just made. So what are those in your mind? Those irreplaceable human skills or habits.
Andrew Sykes: The first one we’ve spoken about is the ability to very quickly connect with another human being and have them relate to meeting you. As if it’s a gift to their life. And I don’t mean that you should show up arrogantly, like I’m a gift to the world, but I didn’t think your mindset should be, how do I need to behave in the way I speak to listen, to and take care of my customer, such that they might go home that evening to their spouse or their partner and say, I met this amazing person today.
I’m so grateful. They’re in my life. And if you can do that. Frankly, I think the rest of the sales process is pretty easy. But the balance of these acts are not so much these moments of inspiration, where you tell a great story, or you engage in a wonderful conversation with a customer. It’s also the consistency of how you show up, which is why we so focused on habits, because we think it is.
Hard to be wonderful as a seller when you’re having to be deliberate about every single moment, isn’t it much easier to just focus on creating the five or 10 or 15 habits that if you practice them regularly, perhaps daily with every single customer, we’ll have you show up and stand out in every interaction you have with them. So it’s really thinking about what does it take to transform knowledge into skills that then embed as habits. And, in my view where we missing things a lot in the enablement world is we still have a dream that if people know things, they will do things. One hit wonders approach to training, which I think has failed human beings.
Andy Paul: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We spent $20 billion a year in the U S on sales training and to the best of my knowledge. Yeah. I have a specific unit of productivity I use to measure sales, which is revenue generated per hour of actual selling time. And my belief is that hasn’t improved in the last 40 years, despite the introduction of all the technology
Andrew Sykes: I love that metric because it makes you focus. So clearly not on how much time you spend, but what you do in those minutes. Yeah. Beautiful metric.
Andy Paul: When you’re talking about yeah, the skills and the habits. And so I’ve early in my career. I came across this quote from Vince Lombardi, famous coach of the green Bay Packers and hated rivals at the time of the Chicago bears still are to some degree, and the quote, it’s almost like a poem, but it’s it’s called starts with winning as a habit. So winning is a habit and he says, watch your thoughts. They become your beliefs, watch your beliefs. They become your words, watch your words. They become your actions, watch your actions. They become your habits, watch your habits. They become your character. And you’re talking to sales manners, to me, I call that care and we S we don’t.
Emphasize that at all in hiring and training and coaching people. It’s, but that’s what people, your characters, the most visible part of you that people see when you first meet them.
Andrew Sykes: I love that perspective because we think that the job to be done by sales leadership is not having your sellers acquire new skills. Although that’s important. If you level up one from there, the question is why do they need new skills? And the common answer is well, to be more effective, that’s obvious.
Yes. But the way I see it is who you are and who you become as a human being is entirely determined by the habits that you practice. To that quote and the world of psychological personality testing has done us. I think a disservice because it’s left us all thinking I’m this type or I’m that trait.
And therefore I’m a fixed human being through time. But if you think about how we judge someone, when we meet them, I’d say, I think Andy is this way and he’s that way. And I have a set of attributes. I judge those attributes by watching how you behave, how you treat me, how you treat other people, how you speak to people and how that persists over time.
Save. If I judge you as simply the collection of your habits, the same is happening of me. And therefore the question I would ask our sales leader is. Whom do you want to be your team in a year from now or two years from now? Describe that set of characteristics or personality traits. And then let’s go to work on helping people transform to become those human beings, like highly effective magnetic, charismatic, you name the traits.
There’s a set of habits that have us view people in that way.
Andy Paul: It’s interesting you phrase it that way too, because if you don’t one things with these personality tests, is there the ant there, a fixed growth mindset, a fixed mindset, excuse me, the sort of growth mindset, right? Cause they’re basically saying you are who you are
Andrew Sykes: Yeah.
Andy Paul: And it’s ironic that sellers and sales leaders and sales managers.
Increasingly seem to rely on those, to assess people when they’re in the very business of growth and transformation.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, I do think it’s an interesting question. Why are personality tests so stable over time? And I think the answer is. It’s actually a very difficult thing to transform a human being, because essentially we’re asking you to quit some habits and create new habits. And what we know about humans is one of the hardest things we can do is change our habits.
Andy Paul: I think that’s a getting ahead of myself a little bit here, but I think that’s one of the really interesting perspective and viewpoint is I think that we get too focused on this idea of transformation as opposed to incremental change. In terms of, okay, here’s the path from where you are today to where we want you to become where you think you want to become a year from now or two years from now.
And I, and we get some of this in this conversation talking about new habits, because I think it was Duhigg that brought up in his book is that the power of habit is that we’re born with all the habits we have. All we’re going to do is change the ones that we have as been, I think when we talk about creating new habits, I think that’s suddenly sounds hard to people, but if we say, instead of flipping a switch from left to we’re just gonna move the dial just a little bit today right now.
And we’ll keep moving it over time once you master this, but we’re just, we’re changing as opposed to transforming.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, it makes it much more accessible too. I think transformation is the big outcome from the daily incremental application of practice with feedback. And if you just change 1%. Every single working day of the year, you’re 10 times different or better or more effective a year from now. So I always think of feedback being like compound interest to your talent bank account.
Just really magnifies over time.
Andy Paul: I like that. Yeah. And I’ve wrote about this handful of years ago, I’m a big follower of professional cycling and the tour de France. And there was this interview with Dave Brailles for Brailsford. Easy for me to say who at the time. And I think still is the manager of though I was then called the sky team, which had Chris Froome and was winning the tour de France and his whole philosophy was that, yeah, we don’t look for, we look for, we look to transform through what he called the aggregation of marginal gains, right?
So we’re looking for these half percent, 1% improvements in everything we do and no stone unturned, whether it’s positioning on the bike, it’s our equipment. That’s the way it’s the fabrics we wear on our jerseys. It’s our nutrition, all these things. And I think that’s a great sort of metaphor for sellers to think about is, yeah, we just want to keep on changing, keep on improving, but it’s the small gains you make to your point, become these investments in your sales bank account.
And the compounding of interest is huge.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah. What are the things I’d love your reaction to is also this idea of what it actually takes to create new habits over time? Abrogates the inside? Or am I, our biggest insights, I think is this idea that we don’t actually have habits as human beings. Rather our habits have us. And what I mean by that is we think that our habits are in some sense, internal to us, which is why we describe them as my habits.
And I have this habit. But if you look at why humans behave in the way they do, and you notice that for example, the same, Andy Paul will behave differently in a library on Monday morning, as you would in a bar on a Friday night. That’s not because you two different people it’s because you’re in two different situations.
So our view is that most habits are actually encoded in the world that surrounds you, that pulls out certain behaviors from you consistently over time. And unless you get skilled at noticing how the contexts of your life affect your behavior. It’s not easy to change that behavior because you’re having to exercise extreme world to overcome the default behavior that’s appropriate in a given situation.
So that’s a little esoteric.
Andy Paul: Yeah, but it’s really interesting cause it to some degree it aligns with, this sort of philosophical school that’s emerged about how you technology is really, it’s not this external thing. It is us. Like our phones are, they are us. That’s. That phone, the computing power is an extension of our brain.
Not something that’s served them posed on it or that, and it seems like that’s server related. We’ve got this context that we operate in this larger sphere. And I sorta like that ideas that really pull the habits out based on the context.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah. And what makes it interesting as a human is there are multiple overlapping and competing contexts so that the people that surround us, they certainly influence us the space we create, including our home offices. There’s all this technology and the systems under which we operate. And then finally, there’s that.
Interesting context that I described as our mindset or the content itself, which feels very internal to me. I believe this, and I have this view. It’s interesting for people to notice that our mindsets, our beliefs, our opinions are a construction. We learned them somewhere. We adopted them somewhere and so we can choose different ones.
Andy Paul: I’m sorry. I think that’s the really important thing about habits and is Marshall Goldsmith’s book triggers. I think that for me is did a great job explaining it is that, when you have a trigger that triggers a habitual behavior is you always have a choice right.
About. Whether you want to pursue that habitual behavior or choose something else. And I think that you alluded to this is there’s we have an element of control over that. We’re not surrendering to our habits. We don’t have to surrender to our habits. We have a choice to make
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, I agree. I will say, I think that the harder choice to make is not to react to a trigger that takes a lot of discipline. When I can I try and go upstream one level and ask how might I remove the negative triggers and replace them with. Triggers for the right actions, so that can allow myself to react, but it’s the correct reaction versus the discipline choice to overcome a negative triggering.
Andy Paul: Yeah. And Goldsmith start talking about, I think, and others have too is that in the sense of habit? When you, if you can avoid a trigger and the trigger happens and you have this impulse to respond a certain way is the habit you have to develop is to pause. Right that pause and this pause comes up time and time again.
And I found as I’ve in lots of different behaviors, that’s talking to a seller a couple years ago after I had given a keynote address. And, they were saying, they’re having problems asking questions and waiting for the response to come back. They want to jump on it with their own response which is common among new sellers.
And I said, just. Count one, Mississippi. And if you haven’t talked by then you’re not gonna talk. You’ll wait for the buyer to finish that response. And I think this pause really becomes a really interesting thing in many behaviors and habits.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, I love that you brought that up. We spent a lot of time researching this tiny little thing that no one notices. Which is the dead air between two people in a conversation. And it’s fascinating research just to, when you have the experience of listening to someone reading a piece of text versus speaking, naturally your ear can detect that it’s reading versus speaking.
It turns out, or it appears to be that it’s the difference in pause lengths that has it. So clearly sound like reading versus speaking. And I think the same is true. When you introduce your name, if you say my name is Andy Paul, and there’s no pause in between. No wonder people can’t hear me. And what your name is, you all say I’m bad at names.
It’s because we’re bad at sharing our name. And so take your trick and you say, my name is Anne. Any one, Mississippi, two yourself, Paul, you guys. If people have time to hear your name, let it sink in and remember it. And I think that’s, this is a theme that goes across the entire sales conversation. If in doubt, shut your mouth and see what happens.
Andy Paul: Yeah and that’s part of the reason I encourage sellers to read. Poetry, because I think it starts teaching that idea of injecting pause into your conversation because yeah you’re talking to a specific meter theoretically and there are pauses the author built in.
Andrew Sykes: I like that advice a lot. I’m going to borrow that if I may.
Andy Paul: Oh, absolutely. attributed to him.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah. I often recommend that sellers go and do an improv course. And the reason they think I’m recommending that is they’ve heard about the yes and rule and yes, I’m going to, I’m going to learn about yes. Ending. And so I’ve got this. Thank you very much.
But what I learned from improv is the art of agreeing with another human being, without saying a word.
Andy Paul: No. Explain that. That’s interesting.
Andrew Sykes: If you’re on stage with someone else and they come up with some crazy idea, how do you go all in and agree with the idea so that it makes sense to the audience, but without speaking a word, and it’s got to do with, body posture and leaning in and being engaged and being in support of what’s going on stage.
I think the same is true with customers. They are speaking. My job is to be environment agreement. With a right to speak, to validate what they’re saying, to give them the space, to let it all out. Even though the content of what they’re saying, I may disagree with the time will come for me to share my view.
But right now my single job is to be in full and complete agreement with my body. And maybe, I may say yes, I agree in addition, but if it’s a physical act more than it is a language act.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I love that. I love that. Yeah. And this is one of these things. The nuances we talked earlier about in virtual selling that some people have rightly pointed out as is. Yeah. When you’re on screen with someone is not like body language, the importance of body languages has disappeared, even though they can only serve, see you from the shoulders up is if you lean into it, people will understand.
They’ll see it.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, I do think there’s so much going on at the level below our consciousness that matters and that we can be deliberate about. And it’s hard to always know, did I. Have the impact I was having, because it’s not like customers will say, Oh, I noticed you really leaning in. And I appreciate that.
Thank you. May I buy from you? So we have to trust the research into what it says about how humans think, feel, and act, and therefore what it looks like to show up as someone who, as I said earlier, feels like a gift when they’re coming to our lives.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I love that. All right. So we haven’t really gotten to the main theme of what I wanted to talk to you about, but I do want to touch on before we run out of time, which cause it’s. Really important and aligns with the number of we’ve had an on this program recently about mental health and sales and so on.
And so we went through most of the 10 habits of performance improvement, but the 11th habit, you talk about it in the book, which again, I think was so important is self care. And this idea in my mind about how important the whole person is, and you’ve referred to this already. And. We don’t.
Gosh, we just don’t pay any attention to that. And when we’re in the business of performance improvement, yeah, you, the human are affected negatively by something. You’re not gonna be able to perform
Andrew Sykes: Absolutely. And, we call it the 11th habit to recognize that for most humans and most companies, we don’t attend to our own health, happiness, and security. Until that point when it’s too late, something’s been lost the proverbial 11th hour, hence the 11th habit. And so the book is about making the case that although listening empathically and telling stories and all of these other sales habits are really important.
The foundation that they all rest upon is whether or not you show up at all. And if you do, are you fold with mental clarity and energy free from the distractions of worrying about making ends meet. And not having to deal with mental health. And I think the reason this is so important, sellers have a bad reputation as being manipulative and selfish and money hungry and all of those things that are associated with our profession.
It’s not been my experience. I find that the sellers are committed to helping other people relentlessly. So even to their own detriment, And so the mindset shift we were trying to create with this book is in order to serve your family, your customers, your boss, your company, you do have to first invest in yourself.
It is an act of service to others, too. Spend time exercising and meditating and eating well and managing your 401k because it allows you to show up and be extraordinary for others. So it’s a heroic act, not a selfish act. It’s so many people relate to trying to get work out, Tom or Tom for myself as if I’m robbing my customers or my company or something.
Andy Paul: Which has gotten worse during the pandemic because many companies have just presumed that since you’re not on a train and hour and a half a day, or you’re not in your car an hour and a half each way, if you happen to be in Los Angeles is that’s not work time. And so the work day has expanded and there’s, it’s just.
It was taken for granted by companies. And you point out these three performance factors, health, happiness, security, when you think from a sales perspective, security is the way most management teams treat sales is you’re under the gun every single month. And how can you ever feel you have some level of security, if you feel like the sword of Damocles hanging over the back of your neck.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah. I’m a hundred percent in agreement that quarterly targets and the pressure we put sellers under has gone too far. I know many sellers are competitive and we’d like a goal and we’d like a target and we’d like to compete. So all that’s great. But when it becomes dangerously about the number, rather than about serving your customers, I think two things happen.
Seller burnout increases. And secondly shortcuts start to be taken and that’ll catch up with a company when a buyer’s bought something and they’re not quite sure what they bought or the process felt rushed. And you starting on the back foot as you move your company to customer success teams. So I think it is healthy to compete.
I think goals are wonderful, but work has made no excuse for infecting our home life. Especially under lockdown. So this whole idea of work-life balance is a myth. And we’re complicit with that. We’re the ones taking work home. We’re the ones waking up and looking at our cell phone and putting it down as we go to sleep.
So it’s not like companies have done this without our violent agreement.
Andy Paul: Yeah we’ve definitely acquiesced in this. And by the same token is I think what’s evolved is that in the individuals just are afraid. They can’t say no.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, it shows up in the sales process too. I don’t think it’s always wise to say to customers yes. All the time. When, if you don’t believe that something would serve them to have the courage to say no. As it is to your manager or your peers saying no is often a gift and not a negative thing for people because it often prevents the wrong action.
Andy Paul: And I, for people, it wasn’t a show off. And I’ve I talk about this often is I think one of the things that’s missing increasingly in today’s environment, that’s not just a function of the pandemic it’s existed. So I think it’s really more artifact of the infusion of technology throughout the text, the sales stack and the marketing stack and so on is that yeah, we’re using technology.
I try to make people in essence, clones of everybody else. If I can record your phone calls and record the phone calls and listen to phone calls and analyze phone calls, my entire team, Jennifer does it the best. I want everybody to be Jennifer. But to a point we were talking about earlier is everybody’s got their own individual character and not everybody can be Jennifer.
They could be as proficient as Jennifer, but it’s going to be as John, not as Jennifer And so at this is another, an added level of stress that comes in that people bring surf forest and they’re afraid to say no, right? , for whatever reason got away with that throughout my careers is, if I got advice to sell a certain way or do something, I would think about it.
And if I thought it didn’t align with what I thought my strengths were, I would say no. In may. I said maybe I was fortunate to have bosses that let me get away with it. But I think you have that job as a seller is to say, no,
Andrew Sykes: And that you’re talking about, you’re saying no, in a particular instance, which is when you get feedback. And I think that is very true. We believe that the giving and receiving of feedback is the fundamental habit because it’s the art of getting good at getting great at anything in record time. But we always say, Feedback is not truth it’s someone’s opinion from their perspective through the lenses that they wear. Now, if you hearing the same thing from 30 people, and maybe we’ve got a wonderful conversation, intelligence piece of AI looking over your shoulder and it’s in violent agreement, now those sets of opinions may signal some truth in all the noise, but it is still for you to decide.
What should I take from the feedback? How should I make it my own so that I become a more human being, not a robot, because if that’s your intention, be where a bot will take your job shortly.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah, no, I, I. Couldn’t agree more. I, you had one boss who asked me once we said, don’t you ever say yes to anything, but it was, and the answer was no, but the
Andrew Sykes: That’s an extraordinary compliment. I would take that as a nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
Andy Paul: But in sales, for me with the feedback, cause I, I was very coachable. But I was also develop an opinion at some point about. Yeah. I don’t think that’s the way that I could succeed doing what you’re suggesting. Maybe there’s this, cause I like most people, I think that succeed in their careers evolve tremendously over time.
But at the end of the day in sales, you are responsible. I had managers give me advice. I thought, okay. And I actually, I, I tell them, I said, I can go do that, but I don’t think it’s going to work. But if you force me to do it and I go do it and it doesn’t work, I’m going to get fired. You’ll still have your job.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, I find it ironic that many sales leaders would agree with us. When we say a defining attribute of top sellers is. Courage and they’d say yes, absolutely. That’s the case, but it takes an enormous amount of courage to say no in particularly in the hierarchy of business. So for me, evidence that a seller has courage is the fact that they prepare to say no often.
And stand by the position, because I think someone who says yes to everything is not saying yes to anything in particular that will make them stand up.
Andy Paul: Yeah, and it doesn’t make them feel more secure. It doesn’t make them happier in what they’re doing. We look at your three performance factors of health, happiness, and security. I think these are. So under, under utilized, under thought about not that it’s a horrible phrase, but is unconsidered.
As we have to start bringing more of the Cintas sales is a performance-based profession. So I’m a huge soccer fan. And everybody knows that everybody’s listening to shows nodding up and down Liverpool fan. And, but if you look at the coaching. Staffs of professional sports organizations these days, they have all these specialists on the staff that are geared to help support, the health, happiness, and security of the players. There’s one I’d have to look up the club and famous coach in England football. I forgot who it was. Who said, when they bring someone to the side, they said, Yeah, we, we spend time coaching the person before we ever talk about coaching their performance
Andrew Sykes: yeah.
Andy Paul: As we have this in sales to bring all these new people into sales.
They don’t know how to be a human being
And we do nothing to help them make the transition that is so fundamental to the ultimate success.
Andrew Sykes: And the last thing I’d like to invite you to consider. In this area of health, happiness and security is we focused on doing that for our sellers. And should we absolutely. Should we co-op them as partners in managing their own health, happiness and security? Absolutely. But the reason we focused on these three things is we asked literally tens of thousands of people what do you really want for yourself and for your life?
Or if you can’t answer that question and you have kids, what do you really want for them and their lives? And everyone says health, happiness, financial security. That’s true for our sellers. It’s also true for our customers. And so I often challenged sellers, not only to invest in their own health, happiness, and security, but in the sales process, how much you pay attention to and support that in the humans that are buying from you, they don’t run, solving their business problems.
Andy Paul: And you’re so right on that. And this is something that, again, as most sellers overlook, is that every stakeholder let’s say in a decision in a purchase decision to your point is considering it on two levels. What’s this mean for the company? What does this mean for me? And so when you’re doing discovery and you’re talking to a stakeholder and to your point, you just made, if you don’t understand what this means for them on both the corporate and the personal level, then you’re missing out. Yeah. You possibly look to build consensus among the stakeholders. If you don’t know, what’s motivating them.
Andrew Sykes: And that wonderful research firm from Harvard about how relationships. Influence our health is always a nice reminder for me when I’m talking to sellers that although you’re having a conversation with a buyer in the interest of selling them something, just remember that you’re also taking some time from their very valuable life.
Make it count. So there’s a relationship that comes out of it. It’s something that it actually leads to their health, their happiness, their, them going home at the end of the day, having had a great experience because they spoke to you, not because they bought something from you, but because they spoke to you.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I coined a phrase or an acronym in my first book. Speaking to this point is I firmly believe that when you’re talking to anybody, but let’s just say in this particular case, a potential customer. Is, they calculate the value that they got from your interaction. And I call it a return on time invested.
And so they do that. And if you have multiple interactions with them where they don’t feel they received anything of value in exchange for the time they gave you, you don’t get any more time.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, that’s a great way of looking at it. What’s the calculus of value added through my conversations with my customers.
Andy Paul: And it, sir, it it stems from research. Herbert Simon did about this in the early seventies, he wrote a white paper about this is when people are overtaxed and this was Siva survey anticipating what was going to happen in the internet decades, decade and a half, at least before it started coming to reality.
So when people are inundated and bombarded with multiple sources of information, how do they make a decision about where to. Allocates slices of that attention and his research found is they basically make an economic calculation. Was it worth that time? Am I getting return on it?
Andrew Sykes: That’s a very humbling thought for sellers to always remember that I’m being judged for the value that I add. Me personally, not my product, not my company. Just me personally. Yeah
Andy Paul: And I, and you talked about Harvard study. There was one I know that came out. I got, I forget May, 2000. I forget that sometime during the teens, I believe that it said that in then we talked about this early on, is the buyers trust, the individual seller and that trust level is more important than trust to have on the company they work for. And as long as you keep that in mind as a seller. Yeah. It’s a good starting place.
Andrew Sykes: And great career advice considering you might move five or 10 times through your career. You might be selling to the same human being five or 10 times over, but a different product. If you’re counting on your product, doing all the hard work to close a deal, don’t expect a buyer to be warmly happy when you walk in the room next year, representing a different product, unless they bought you first time.
Andy Paul: And this is there’s some controversy about this and in the sales ecosystem, ecosphere or echo chamber, LinkedIn, and so on of people coming out and saying a relationships, aren’t a thing in sales. You don’t need to have a relationship with your buyer and B you don’t need to be likable.
In fact, you shouldn’t be likable. I had a fairly extended animated discussion with someone about this. The other day I was stopped short of calling him silly, but it’s, I wonder where that comes from because it’s so not true. If you’re not, yeah. Forming a friendship with someone, but by virtue of connecting with someone and working together to achieve something you’re in a relationship and.
Yeah. We talked about the little things before you have a choice. Being likable is a choice. Why wouldn’t you want to be, if it’s positive, it adds to the equation, their calculus about whether they want to work with you or not.
Andrew Sykes: Yeah, I’ve I’ve wondered about this mystery myself, where did it come from? And my conclusion is that there have been, and they continue to be companies that define an industry they created and their product is so wonderfully new and unique that people want to buy the product almost despite the seller.
And there is this idea that we have to challenge our customers and really, put them on the back foot. So they think differently and they’ll buy from us versus someone else. I think that comes from companies that have dominance in a market that kind of behavior seems to work. Because what you’re missing is the product dominance in the background.
But as soon as the competitive environment grows up around those companies, that kind of arrogant approach, I think fails. And the best lesson I can share with someone is what we were talking about earlier. Guns sell for a start-up and see how you do not building relationships and whether you make a single sale or not.
Andy Paul: Exactly. Exactly. Andrew, thank you so much. This has been so much fun. I really enjoyed it.
Andrew Sykes: Likewise Andy. As we say, health, happiness, and security way to make a difference to people’s lives. That’s what we want. And so much of my happiness comes from speaking to smart people and I’ve loved this time together. Thank you.
Andy Paul: Thank you. Thank you very much. So if people want to learn more about your book and connect with you, how should they do that?
Andrew Sykes: They can always reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m very active there .
Andy Paul: Perfect. Andrew, we will make sure we do this again.
Andrew Sykes: I look forward to it and thank you for the honor of being on your show.
Andy Paul: Thank you. All right.