“The largest misconception about communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
In a recent ValueSelling Associates/Training Industry survey, two-thirds of executives said sales reps calling on them are not effective communicators. That is an unacceptable grade attributed to a group of professionals whose primary job is to communicate and connect with buyers.
Today’s sales professionals miss the mark while facing the challenge of mastering many different communication platforms. Face-to-face meetings are no longer the norm. Telephone, email, text, and virtual meetings are much more prevalent. The reliance on technology in this constantly connected world, requires shorter and more ad hoc communication which must be clear and consistent to be effective.
Communication generally consists of four disciplines: writing and reading, speaking and listening. Most sales people focus and prepare on speaking. “What do I say? How do I present? Is my pitch perfect?” Yet, having great speaking skills is mastering only 25% of what communication entails, and often comes at the expense of listening, which has a measurable impact on effective communication.
To become better sales professionals, below are three tips to improve the effectiveness of both business and personal communication.
1. Engage active listening. Face it, sometimes it is hard to listen. We live in a world of distractions and pre-occupation. Listening is important, but few actually practice active listening. At ValueSelling Associates, a key component of our sales call management is asking confirming questions. A confirming question is a summary of what has been heard, asked in a question format, to ensure mutual understanding. The power of the confirming question is that in order to ask it, you have to fully listen and pay attention. As you listen actively, be sure to:
- Minimize distractions. Our brains cannot handle multiple complex tasks at a time.
- Pay attention. Focus on both the words and the way the words are delivered. Only 8% of communication is the words that are said. The balance is non-verbal cues, speed and tone, which can provide insight to the level of interest.
- Avoid assumptions and pause before replying.
- Listen to understand, not to respond.
- Take notes.
2. Be clear and concise.A few weeks ago, I was at a trade show and conference with a multitude of vendors showcasing their products and services. I stopped at one of the flashiest booths because I thought the company offered a service I was interested in. The representative had the gift of gab, yet about 20 minutes into the pitch, I realized I had no idea what he was selling. I finally stopped him and asked, “What does this actually do?”
The take away from this scenario is that delivering clear and concise messages takes time and practice. Attention spans are short. When we cannot clearly and succinctly describe what we do, or fail to answer a question, we will most likely lose the listener and the message will fall short. A best practice is to eliminate unnecessary words.
3. Remember that everyone has a unique perspective. Generic pitches and speeches are rarely effective in one-on-one communication. The best communicators are able to adapt and craft their message with the audience in mind. Yes, personalized messaging requires both research and engagement. Sales reps who do so will effectively demonstrate empathy in their communication and make better connections.
Mastering any skill takes repetition and application. Listen to yourself speak. Ask for feedback and coaching. Evaluate what you say, how you say it and reflect on your choice of words. Practice active listening and develop the best practice of asking confirming questions.
Referring back to the executive poll, are you part of the two-thirds of sales people who are not effective communicators? Today is as good a day as any to give yourself a tune up on tuning in.
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Relevant topic? Catch this month’s webinar, Increase Your Persuasive Skills by Tuning In!