How raising your emotional intelligence can make you the best salesperson in the room
When I was halfway through completing an MBA program at the London Business School, I was offered a position with McKinsey in New York, a dream job of every MBA student at the time.
My tutor, British management guru Charles Handy, told me not to take it. Rather, he said that he had recently concluded that business success comes down to being good in one-on-one meetings, which is precisely what MBA programs don’t teach.
And, he thought the best way to learn how to deal with people one-on-one is to become a salesperson. So I did.
As a new sales trainee with ICL in Australia, I was schooled in the Humm-Wadsworth model of temperament, developed by a statistician and clinical psychologist in Southern California. It had become the dominant people profiling technique used by managers in Australia.
The Humm-Wadsworth model teaches that our personalities are based on seven temperament factors: The GoGetter, Regulator, Artist, Socializer, Politician, Engineer, and the Doublechecker. Use the mnemonic GRASPED to remember the seven names.
These seven temperament traits are far easier to remember than the 16 personality types of Myers-Briggs. After all, the number seven is the limit of short-term memory and is the practical number to ask people to learn for any management tool.
While still a sales trainee at International Computers Limited (ICL), an IBM competitor based in the UK, I was sent out on a sales call to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, which was responsible for all the electricity generation in the whole of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state. The Electricity Commission was one of IBM’s top clients in Sydney. Normally, the most senior salesperson would go out on such a call, but as it was considered a suicide mission, I, being the most junior, was sent in his stead.
When I arrived at my appointment, I noticed that the client, Neville, had pictures of his projects on his wall, a whiteboard, a thick bookshelf, and he basically spoke in a monotone. I pegged him instantly, according to my Humm-Wadsworth training, as dominated by the Engineer component.
Engineers have a strong desire to complete projects. They are practical, objective, and kinesthetic.
A few days after our initial meeting, I rang him up and told him that I wanted to show him our new operating system known as GEORGE3 that had just been developed by ICL. Instead of using punched cards to control jobs, we used a visual display unit. And we could have more than one program running at the same time.
As he was an Engineer I knew he’d respond well to written manuals and hands-on experiences. So I brought him the Introduction Manual to the GEORGE3 operating system and told him I’d ring him back in a few days after he read it.
When I rang him later and asked if he had read the manual, he said he’d been up until 4:00 am the previous night reading it. “Were there any more manuals he could read?” he asked. “Why yes,” I said. “We have seven manuals in all.”
So I brought him all seven. And he read all seven. And he shared them with his team.
Next, he naturally wanted to test the operating system on a benchmark. As Engineers are kinesthetic, instead of showing him a demo, I arranged with Woolworths, who was already running the GEORGE3 operating system, to let him and his team come in after-hours and run the benchmark himself.
The next morning I rang him at his office to see how the benchmark went, only to find out he hadn’t come in that morning. So I rang up Woolworth’s asking if he had come in the previous evening. Not only did he come in, they said, but he was still there.
I said, “Please put Neville on the phone.”
“Chris, you won’t believe it,” he said. “We got the benchmark down to 12 minutes and 22 seconds, but we’re sure we can shave off another two minutes.” Which, of course, they did.
By recognizing Neville’s personality type in our very first meeting and catering to it, I was able to close the Electricity Commission account that far more experienced salespeople were convinced was a fool’s errand. It was the only account in the world that year moved from IBM to ICL. Every other contested account was won by IBM.
After my career as a salesperson, I moved into venture capital in 1984. I had written several articles about this new financial asset when out of the blue one of Australia’s leading book publishers contacted me about writing a book on this new topic.
I met the publisher for lunch. I noticed he avoided making eye contact with the maitre d’ and with me and talked with his hand over his mouth. His dress was creatively tasteful. I immediately identified his temperament as dominated by the Artist component. Artists are individualistic, beat to a different drum, introverted and creative. They are uncomfortable with assertive people. So the two of us were sitting across from each other, avoiding eye contact, and talking with our hands over our mouths.
Suddenly he handed me the wine list and asked, “Why don’t you choose a bottle of wine?” After a few moments’ examination, I suddenly thought of a different approach. I pulled out my American Express card and put it on the table. Then I pointed to the most expensive wine on the list, which at the time was $300 saying that was my choice and that I would pay for it.
There was a long pause. “Are you sure you want that wine?” he asked. “It’s the only wine that was drinkable”, I said, “I’ll buy the wine. You pay for the meal.”
“No,” he said. “The publisher always buys the first meal with a new author. I’ll also buy the wine.”
I had correctly guessed his profile. The publisher was an Artist and they like individualists. He told me later that I was the only prospective author he’d ever met who chose the most expensive wine on the list. Rather, one-third say they don’t drink, one-third order the cheapest bottle, and the other third order the second cheapest bottle. “I knew you were different in that instant,” he recalled later.
Needless to say, I got the book deal.
Getting that book deal changed my life. The book went through five editions and became the handbook of the Australian venture capital industry.
Subsequently Australia’s fifth-largest bank, St. George asked me to be the manager of its first venture capital fund. It further invested in the second and third funds as the cornerstone investor.
As my mentor Charles Handy said, business success comes from being good at one-to-one meetings. I became good at one-to-one meetings by learning practical emotional intelligence – not the theoretical, convoluted, and overly complicated emotional intelligence that takes months of certification to master.
Rather, I have refined and modernized the Humm-Wadsworth into what I now call the 7MTF, the seven motivational temperance factors, or practical emotional intelligence. With it, you can instantly size up the temperament of whomever you’re speaking to in under a minute, and be able to relate with them in a manner they understand.
Written by Christopher Golis.
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