By Richard White.
Communication and influencing skills are the tools of the trade for sales and continually honing your skills and your mentality in this area is vital. The reality is that selling products and services to customers is not much different than selling ideas to staff and suppliers. People do business with people they like and trust. Using the principles outlined above like seeking win-win solutions, putting yourself in the customers shoes, seeking first to understand and effective listening will all help you to develop strong business relationships.
We communicate with one another all the time and yet improving our communication skills can help us in so many ways. A key part of business is about developing relationships and good communication is vital part of developing strong relationships. Business areas that will be enhanced with honed communication skills include the ability to find and keep more customers, negotiating better deals with suppliers and finding and recruiting better staff.
Here are 7 communication areas that all people in sales need to work on to greatly increase their effectiveness:
Mentally prepare for meetings and important communications
If the outcome of the meeting is important, such as winning a sale or negotiating a better deal, then it should be worth spending a few moments to plan and mentally prepare for your meeting. Consider what your ideal outcome for the meeting would be. Consider the other person’s point of view and ask yourself, ‘if I was that person, what would I be expecting from this meeting?’ As well as being clear how you will benefit, also consider how the other party will benefit too. Business works better when both parties get what they want.
Master the art of small talk
Networking is a key skill in sales lead generation and yet many people find it difficult to know what to say and get small talk going. The important thing to remember is to take an active interest in the other person. If you want to appear interesting then you need to be interested. If you want to talk about your business then ask about the other person’s business first. To initiate a conversation, the favourites people use are still the same, a comment about the weather, asking a question like ‘do you come to these events often?’ or just saying ‘hello’.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
Empathy is a key skill in communication and, in my view, the most important selling skill. This is the ability to see things from the other person’s point of view. To imagine what it is like for the other person, what their motivations might be and what their fears are. Considering the other person’s point of view before you communicate with them will help you to tailor your approach and think ahead as to how you may be able to come up with a win-win solution.
Let the other person speak first
Listening is a very important skill in business and essential in sales. Communication in business is normally a two way process and the golden rule is to seek first to understand the other person or audience before being understood. This is important because we are not mind readers and hearing the other persons point of view or requirements first allows us to tailor our message to meet what the other person wants as well as what we want. In selling situations a common mistake, even for experienced sales people, is to do all the talking and try and persuade your prospect that your product of service is what they need. It is much better to ask them some questions first to find out more specifically what they need. They will give you the information you need on how to influence them. If you are making a presentation to a number of people then it is useful to do some research about them before the presentation to find out their expectations.
Work on your questioning skills
One of the things that will help you most in communication and especially sales is to really understand what the other person is thinking. You also need to able to take charge of any conversation, There is so much one can learn about questioning techniques but at the most simplistic level it all boils down to open and closed questions. So many people in sales are aware of the difference between these types of questions but get confused as to when to use them.
If you want to get someone talking then be sure to use open questions rather than closed questions.
Open questions start with words like What, Why, How, When. For example, ‘What is most important to you about……?’ Use open questions when you want to get the conversation going and to find out detail, such as at the beginning of a sales meeting or when interviewing for staff.
Closed questions are ideal for closing a conversation or sale as they normally just require a one word answer. For example, ‘Would you like to pay by cash or cheque?’ If you want to get the other person to stop talking then use closed questions rather than open ones.
We have a natural ability to listen and yet most people are too busy thinking what to say or waiting to say what they want that they do not really hear the other person. Careful listening will show the other person that you are interested in them and respect them as a human being. It is also good business sense as you will be in a better position to influence the other person. Good listening involves paying attention to the body language as well as the words used and the tone. Ask yourself ‘What is this person really saying?’
Go for Win-Win Solutions
Whatever situation you are in, adopt an attitude of Win-Win. That means that as well as you getting what you want, you want the other party to benefit too. For example, if you are negotiating with a supplier and you want to develop a longer term relationship then it is important that they are able to benefit from dealing with you. Even though you may be able to negotiate the price down so that they are not making a profit from dealing with you, it is unlikely that you get the sort of service and commitment from the supplier, especially on the occasions when you need the supplier to meet a tight deadline.