Communication creates relationships, and relationships drive sales. Understanding how you can use verbal (and non-verbal) communication to affect others is the difference between good salesman and a great one.
Sales Communication Opens Doors
By expressing yourself strategically you strengthen the bond you create with prospects. They open up more than they would otherwise, and new opportunities form as a result. If you’re ready to improve your sales communication, this guide is for you.
First & last impression
Did you know that sight accounts for 83% of the information our brain processes? That means the second a prospect sees you, they start to form an opinion.
Research shows it only takes 1/10th of a second for people to form a first impression; that’s less than a blink of an eye. In that short amount of time, the impression is created solely on your presentation.
Posture, grooming, appearance, and friendliness create the majority of the impression. These are fundamental things you should work on:
- Keep your spine straight. Stand tall and show confidence
- Dress for success – people trust people who are like themselves. If you’re meeting with a casual customer in a laid-back setting, dial down your wardrobe. If you’re headed to the corner office, opt for the more formal end of the spectrum, and always keep your clothes neat.
- Keep your hair, beard or makeup in a decent condition – look your best. Ensure that you smell good and that your cologne or perfume is not overpowering. Keep your makeup low-key – this is not something your client should be focusing on and ensure that your hair, facial hair, and nails, are clean, cut, clipped, and manicured.
Just as important as first impressions, are last impressions. It’s proven that people are more likely to remember the last things you said to them, and how those things made them feel. If you can’t close a deal right then, you should still leave a positive lasting impression so that they’ll return to you to buy next time.
You know what does not leave a trustworthy impression? Fidgeting. Moving restlessly, looking away and touching your neck or face is a natural consequence of being nervous. Fidgeting is seen as untrustworthy and insincere behavior. It’s difficult to control as a subconscious action, but becoming aware of it allows you to control it.
Avoid fidgeting by making yourself feel more confident. Change your body posture from radiating low power to communicating high power.
Instead of hunching over your tiny phone screen, widen your shoulders, straighten your spine, and keep your nose up. Here is a TEDtalk on how you can increase your confidence by improving how you present yourself.
What’s worse than fidgeting? Checking your phone in the middle of the conversation. Even looking at the time creates a negative association. It shows you as unfocused, inappropriate, and disrespectful.
Eye contact makes you seem more honest and open. A lot of people have trouble maintaining eye contact, especially when they’re presenting to a crowd – what, or who, do you you focus on?
Next time, try this strategy: if you’re performing in front of a smaller crowd, create eye contact with everyone and switch the person every 3-5 seconds. However, if you’re in front of a bigger crowd, pick a handful of people and switch among them, the people around them will also feel like you’re looking at them.
Most importantly, just remember to smile and nod. Show the customer that they have your full attention and there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing in that moment is helping them find a solution to their problem.
It’s important to listen to your prospects actively. There’s nothing more off-putting than explaining your wants and needs to a salesperson and feeling like they only care about closing a deal.
It is widely believed that paying attention can be faked by repeating what the customer just said, but that isn’t the case. Instead, prompt the customer with questions to get a better overview of what they mean and how your product could benefit them.
Open-ended questions help you learn more about the customer – they get to express themselves and aren’t constricted to a yes/no answer. You should only ask yes/no questions when you want to lead the customer to a specific idea.
You should summarize the sales conversation once the the prospect has completely finished talking. This verifies that you and your prospect are on the same page Asking for feedback is another way to better understand the customer and make them feel in control of the conversation.
Empathy is essential. Letting the customer talk and listening to their problems won’t cut it. You need to show that their pain is understood and you really have their best interests at heart. Every customer is different and so empathizing and being able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes is a crucial skill to master.
If you keep that in mind, you’ll start to recognize patterns with your your customers. They all have similar problems, but each problem feels unique to the one having it. Never treat a prospect like everyone else having that problem. Dig deep to find the unique circumstances affecting them.
The most difficult part of empathizing in sales is maintaining a positive attitude when the prospect is fighting you every step of the way.
Instead of letting it affect your deal, you can use a psychological concept called steelmanning.
Instead of arguing with your prospect and facing resistance, try the opposite approach. Steelmanning makes your counterpart’s argument sound good, and positions your argument agree with it and show how your opinion complements it. Using steelmanning, it seems to the customer that you belong to the same group by having the same beliefs. You become an ally, an experience mentor. Other ways to make the customer feel included is to use their name or premature ‘we’-s.
Mirroring – imitating your prospect’s communication style – is a popular topic in sales. Over-mirroring is off-putting according to Psychologytoday, but subtly mirroring the way they express themselves will make it feel like you can easily relate to their all their problems.
The easiest aspects to mirror is their mood and choice of words. It’s understandable why mirroring their mood is necessary – upbeat people enjoy talking to other positive people, whereas someone serious will appreciate an all-business conversation much more. But why is mirroring their language influential? Everyone attaches their personal meanings & images to words – other people using them make the pitch more personal and relatable.
Hands are a very expressive part of your body language. Big gestures help emphasize your points, but be careful not to come across as intimidating. Hold your palms upwards to avoid looking agressive.
There was an experiment conducted among three groups with the same demographics, where the same speaker presented the exact same speech once with his hands facing upwards, second time with his palms facing downwards and last time using fingerpointing. The groups who were watching the presentation with his downwards facing palms and finger-pointing, described him as authoritative and commanding, whereas the crowd with whom the presenter talked with his palms facing upwards characterized him as easy-going, humorous and laid back.
Handshakes and their alternatives have been around since the beginning of times but in today’s business world, they’re the gateway into a relationship. In western cultures a firm handshake shows strong character, honesty, quality & trustworthiness. Firm handshake shows respect, but gripping stronger than your partner will make you seem aggressively dominant and gripping weaker will come across as uncertain and submissive. It’s safe to always go with a full contact handshake – thumbs on top and palms touching. You can read more about different kinds of handshakes on this article.
Feet communicate in a very subtle way, but this doesn’t mean that people don’t subconsciously pay attention to them.
Standing with your feet close together seems timid whereas feet far apart display confidence. People don’t normally stand with their toes facing straight at their partner because it feels confrontational, they usually have them pointed outwards or to a whole different direction when they’re sitting. However, having your torso facing the other person shows full attention.
Most importantly remember not to step too close and invade personal space – if they step back, don’t step forward, it’ll make them uncomfortable and vigilant. You’ll have much tougher time getting through to them. Keep your distance physically and get closer to them mentally.
There is communication without saying a word but there is no sales without speaking. But before we get into more deep sales talk topics we should think what comes before diving into sales talk – introduction and creating a proper atmosphere. Small talk is usually the way to go, but there’s a hook – not everyone in the world is a fan..
Northern Europeans mostly avoid small talk whereas the US loves it. This article gives a good overview of nationalities that enjoy and don’t enjoy small talk. Just a small background research will help you find the cultural background of your customer and make it easier for you to connect. If you can’t find the appropriate information, it’s good to go with a casual ‘how are you’, see how your customer reacts and go on from there.
The information-heavy pitch can be split to two parts: what you say, and how you say it.
Writing scripts is a controversial topic among all public presenters and in the end it all comes down to your personal preference. But if you’re feeling unsure, it could be a good idea to write a rough outline of your presentations, pitches, and answers to most important questions. Because according to research we’re not actually awkward, our brains just can’t handle the tasks of thinking of the right words and focusing on a face at the same time.
But why shouldn’t scripts be perfectly detailed?
- You don’t want to sound like a gramophone repeating an old record when presenting
- Overflowing customer with details makes the presentation feel generic, keep it personal by just talking about the features they can benefit from
- Because the average human attention span has fallen to 8 seconds, you want to use short summaries/teasers to quickly get your message across
After debating the existence of scripts, the next step is to think of how to present the item and yourself. Consider these helpful points:
- Don’t act as the industry expert but rather as a curious student. Asking probing question is another trick to get the client to talk more. You acting as an inquisitive student, your counterpart will automatically take the role of a calm, patient teacher and engage more in the conversation.
- Sell ideas, not the product. Make it easy for your customers to understand the value your product creates by creating an image of the future for them.
- Go back and forth between ‘crappy reality’ and ‘great future’ – most commonly used ‘shape’ in the greatest speeches is __|¯¯|_|¯¯|_|¯¯|_|¯¯. The presenter starts with the present, then talks about the marvelous future and then keeps going back and forth to create a drastic gap between what is and what could be. Check out the video to see exactly how both Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs used this tactic in the ‘I have a dream’ and the 2007 iPhone launch speech.
Tone of voice
“Monotone is great!” – said no prospect ever. So to do the exact opposite – vary your volume and speed to keep their attention.
Keep your voice loud enough to ensure clarity but quiet enough not to be intimidating. Playing with the speed of your speech is a way of conveying your passion. Don’t be scared to be loud when you’re really enthusiastic about a feature, excitement is infectious! Varying the intensity, speed and enunciation keeps your listeners attentive, if they can’t catch something you said, they’ll have to ask and show their interest.
Possibly the biggest obstacle when it comes to presentations is sentence length. What’s dangerous about sentence length? It’s so easy to use long, difficult sentences when you have a perfectly clear idea of what you’re talking about. However, your listeners are already processing all the new information you’re feeding them, so don’t make it even harder for them by using long, difficult sentences. Using short sentences sounds much more natural.
To help your listeners with processing everything, give them time to ponder. Filler words (such as ‘umm’, ‘uh’, ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘okay’) make you sound unsure, so make pauses instead. Your prospect won’t feel so overwhelmed with information and you get a moment to take a breath. Win-win.
After presenting a new chunk of information or asking a question, let it set in, don’t go rambling on. Here’s an old sales secret – wait a couple of seconds after the customer stops talking. There’s a good chance they’ll keep going, giving you more information without you having to dig deeper.
There are so many aspects of communication and it’s almost impossible to perfect all of them. But observing yourself, practicing with your friends and improving yourself with every meeting will put you on the path of mastering sales communication.