The most fundamental part of any type of sales is communication. In fact, selling is just one version of communicating. It is the version where you try to get your audience to do something. That may be something different or the same thing they are already doing. But we try to create that something through the art of communication.
I would argue that each and everyone of us are sales people. Every day we try to convince someone to do something. Mostly it’s just trying to get our kids to do the right thing, but we also ‘sell’ at work, with our friends, at stores, and in almost every facet of life. In order to succeed though, we must communicate effectively. And when sales is your actual job, it is critical to become an expert
All of that is pretty obvious, but that then begs the question:
“how do you become an expert communicator?”
The answer to this question has many layers and can get a bit complicated. People have been trying to address that question through books, seminars, classes, and every other media imaginable for hundreds, if not thousands of years. At HealthCare U, we have also addressed in our coursework for our healthcare sales rep customers by starting with the first layer – the most fundamental aspects of communications.
It is truly shocking how many people don’t get the fundamentals of communications right, much less the more intricate and advanced aspects of communication. For instance, we fail to remember that our appearance is our first communication point. It says something to someone before you even open
your mouth. If two people are standing in front of you and one is in a suit and tie and the other is wearing a tie die shirt and Birkenstocks, both have communicated something very definitively different to you, the observer.
We hear so much about profiling and not judging people by their appearance. What that really means is “don’t judge me negatively by my appearance” versus “don’t judge me at all by my appearance.”
We all intend to communicate something when we decide what to wear and how to groom each day. And until our innate human nature of evaluating what we see completely changes, everyone will
judge you positively or negatively based on what your appearance is communicating. So, whether you’re going in for an interview or are in a position of selling, you should be prepared to adjust your appearance accordingly. Specifically, you should consider your appearance based on the terms of your audience, not your own terms… at least if you want to have the best chance of convincing them to do something.
Mode of Communication
This leads to another critical aspect of communicating. We must be prepared to communicate on our audience’s terms, particularly when it comes to the communication channel they like to use.
Long gone are the days of mail, phone, or in person. Technology has expanded our communication channels to the point that a phone call seems absurd to many people. If I’m one of those people, you will have a very hard time selling to if you just continue to call me all the time.
But how will you know what channel to use? Easy! Find out the channel I prefer by seeing how I always reply to you and start utilizing that channel. Whether its texting, calling, in person, or smoke signals, analyze your audience!
Also, find out when they want to communicate. Are mornings better or afternoon? We all have a better time of day when we are more open to talk and therefore more receptive to communication. Ultimately, this adds a level of complexity to selling because every person has their own preference on how, where, and when they want to communicate. But the overriding communication principle is simple, speak on their terms and communicate in their preferred manner if you want to maximize your selling success.
At its core, effective communication is very behavioral in nature. We want what we want. If I’m the audience, I want you to dress a certain way and contact me in a certain way. I also really want you to listen to me. How can you possibly convince me of something if you don’t know what I care about, what I need, or what I want? So yes, this is where often uttered holy grail of communication is
introduced – active listening!
We have all heard about it in some version, but this goes back to the shocking part, precious few actually practice it!
Ask yourself about the last sales situation you were in. Did you ask really good questions to uncover important information you didn’t know, but really needed? Or did you ask leading questions to drive the conversation to a specific destination because you already knew the answers? Did you provide positive verbal and non-verbal cues that let your audience know that you were engaged and hearing what they were saying? Did you reconfirm what they told you to verify that you, in fact, did understand what they were trying to communicate with you?
Most of us pay some initial homage to listening with a planned question or two, but then jump right to ‘selling’ when we get our first immediate chance to let our audience know how fantastic we are, our product is, our solution could be, etc. The truth is, we can’t possibly communicate with our audience very well until we have done two vital things, both accomplished by listening. First, we must uncover what really motivates them. Second, they must feel heard, before they will listen themselves.
All of this seems quite simple on the surface and it is. It’s also why these are part of the fundamentals steps of good communication skills. But without the fundamentals, you will never be truly good at anything, communications or otherwise. So take heed if you ever want to sell your 5 year old on the benefit of good oral hygiene.
What communication basics do you use to sell? Let us know in the comments!