Great salespeople have the ability to speak well and to convey their ideas and their solutions. This ability in great salespeople is never exercised until they have exercised the even greater communication skill of active listening first, because it proves they care. Practice these ideas to improve your communication skills.
Learn to Be an Exceptional Listener
The first step to learning to communicate well is to know that listening well is a far more important skill than speaking well. And it is far rarer. Truly listening, without your thoughts wandering or planning your response, is an act of caring. It is immediately felt and it builds the rapport and connection that speaking does not.
Too many salespeople believe that listening well is simply repeating back what they have heard in order to prove that they heard what was said. Besides annoying your prospect, it can be done without truly listening for the meaning and without really understanding. It is simply a tactic, not true listening.
I had a great mentor in sales that won more deals with fewer spoken words than I ever imagined possible. If there were an effective measurement for revenue to words spoken, he would surely be the most effective salesperson in the world. He was a brilliant listener, asking questions and then sitting quietly and listening, prompting the client with more questions only when they were completely finished speaking. He asked clarification questions when necessary. Then, when he gathered all of the information he needed, he neatly summarized the points for confirmation.
Practice the art of listening by first controlling your desire to speak. Care deeply about what the other person is saying so that you don’t have to repeat everything back. Stop planning what you will say next, and be open to the idea that you don’t already have the right solution just because you have seen their challenges before. Prompt for more information to clarify the meaning and to acquire a deeper understanding. Take short, concise notes, and not so much that you can’t look the speaker in the eye most of the time. Then, neatly summarize all of that you have heard to confirm you understand.
Most of all, care enough to pay attention.
Write, Rehearse and Use Scripts
Speaking well and presenting well in sales isn’t a matter of being able to think on your feet alone, although is certainly necessary. This makes me think of Presidents Bush and Obama. President Bush took a drubbing for struggling to choose the right words when he had no teleprompter. President Obama takes a drubbing for using a teleprompter too much. When in doubt, go with the script.
Sometimes it will be critical that plan what you say, and that you are able to convey your meaning in the most effective way possible. When that is necessary, it is best to use sales scripts.
I know that I will hear a bunch of rumblings about how it kills your creativity to use scripts, and that you need to be able to think on your feet. This violates my personal law against mutual exclusivity. I am suggesting that you write, rehearse and use scripts AND you think on your feet. Most of us come up with language that works, and we use that language again and again.
To improve your communication skills, write scripts for your most important client interactions. Write scripts for the questions you ask during a needs analysis, write scripts for your presentations, and write scripts for handling problems that occur. Write a script for your elevator pitch; write scripts for the objections you hear, and write scripts that prove your competency and demonstrate your capabilities.
Know that you are using scripts whether you have really taken the time to think about the choices you make when you speak. Taking the time to think over those choices will make you a better communicator. There is no better way to ensure that you explain your ideas well than to write and rehearse them.
Use Their Words
Prospects and clients use words that they have attached a certain meaning to. These words bring to their mind a certain picture and a certain emotion. These words are powerful, and capturing and using their words ensures that you connect with their meaning and the emotion it elicits.
Listen carefully for the language that your prospects and clients use and capture their word choices. Use their word choices in your conversations and presentations. If their word choices are meaningful, and they are, then adopt them as your language in your presentations and your proposals. Use their words to explain your ideas.
If you want to speak well and communicate well to groups of people, there is no better place to start than Toastmasters. Not only will you have the opportunity to get up in front of a group and present yourself and your ideas, you will have the opportunity to practice responding to questions for which you have not prepared.
By the time you earn you Competent Communicator designation, you will have given ten speeches of 5 -7 minutes each. If you are uncomfortable in front of a room, you will be transformed completely (and I don’t care how bad you are now or how afraid). If you already comfortable and fearless in front of a room, you will be even more transformed.
The greatest shortcut to speaking well in front of groups is to spend a long time practicing speaking in front of groups.
Find your local Toastmasters clubs and visit them. Find one that is comfortable for you, and join it. Then practice your speaking using all of the other ideas above.