Communication: The Ability to Listen and to Explain Ideas
The eighth essential attribute for salespeople is Communication.
Communication follows the first attribute, self-discipline. Self-discipline precedes communication because it is what is required to truly listen.
Communication follows the second attribute, optimism. Optimism ensures that your listening is a positive experience for others, and allows you to assume other people’s intentions are good, despite their choice of words or their tone of voice.
Communication follows the third attribute, competitiveness. Your desire to win enables you to behave competitively and to get in front of the prospect or client. Once there, you success depends first upon your ability to listen.
Communication follows the fourth attribute, initiative. Listening is a proactive approach that enables you to know what actions may be beneficial to you and your prospects and clients in the future.
Communication follows the fifth attribute, resourcefulness. Your communication skills are what allow you to listen to others for ideas, and to communicate a way forward.
Communication follows the sixth attribute, determination. Communication, especially the ability to listen, ensures that your purpose is directed towards the right outcome for your company, your prospects, and your clients.
Communication follows Caring. Listening is simply caring in action. Without caring first, there is no true listening, and no true communication.
Communication follows Empathy and Emotional Intelligence, because without empathy you cannot really hear what your prospect or client is saying; without emotional intelligence, you cannot effectively manage your own communication.
What is Communication?
Communication is the transfer of information. In the past, sales and marketing people believed that communication was the act of conveying their ideas to their prospective buyers and clients. Some sales and marketing professionals still do.
But the one-way communication of ideas is not communication. Communication is a two-way exchange of information. As one party conveys information, the other party gives feedback that is used to ensure that the meaning is conveyed and understood.
Communication in Sales
For sales, communication skills don’t begin with the ability to speak well or to present well. Communication skills begin with the ability to listen well.
Great salespeople are curious. They have hundreds of questions they would like answered, and they usually have more questions than they can comfortably ask during a single meeting with a prospect or a client. The quality of these questions is a form of communication in and of itself; it communicates the desire to understand.
Once the salesperson asks a great question, they have the ability to listen. They listen to the words the customer uses to describe their situation, their challenges, and their opportunities. They listen to the words that are not spoken, but that are communicated through the other person’s body language.
They don’t listen to determine what solution they will provide or what they might sell. They listen simply to understand. The act of listening with a desire to understand is an act of caring. It is perhaps the most powerful communicated message a salesperson can convey. It is more than words; it is felt in the act of truly listening.
You see these communication skills in the salesperson’s ability to put off presenting their solution on the first meeting.
Only after a great salesperson has truly listened to understand will they explain their own ideas. Regardless of how polished a professional speaker or presenter the salesperson may be, their ability to communicate their ideas is made powerful by their ability to communicate their ideas based on what they gained by listening first.
You see these communication skills in the salesperson’s ability to tie their ideas and their solutions to what they gained by listening.
When it is time to convey their ideas, great salespeople can communicate their ideas so that others can understand them. They have the ability to speak and to observe the feedback that they are receiving from their audience at the same time. They have the ability to speak and to judge what is and what isn’t being communicated so that they can modify their message to ensure that it is understood.
When Communication Skills Are Missing
When communication skills are missing, the salesperson believes it is their job to speak and to present their ideas. They move forward without listening, which conveys the powerful and negative message that what the prospect or client thinks is not as important as what the salesperson has to sell. Because they cannot listen before they speak, they cannot listen while they speak, and they fail to listen to unspoken non-verbal communication that their message is not being understood, that it isn’t working.
Not listening communicates a lack of caring; it comes across as a form of selfishness, an arrogance.
When salespeople lack the ability to communicate they care by listening, they lose the ability to understand the prospects needs before communicating their ideas. They lose the ability to tie their ideas and their solutions to what the prospect needs and, more importantly, to what the prospect believes.
Even if the salesperson has the ability to speak well, and even if they are a tremendous presenter, their skills are worthless if the salesperson lacks the ability to listen.
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 listening first. Great salespeople listen to understand, and they know that it conveys the even more important communication that they care.
What do I convey to my prospects or clients through my questions?
Do I postpone my desire to explain my ideas until I am sure I fully understand my prospects ideas, beliefs, and needs?
Do I listen actively, seeking only to understand? Or do I regularly formulate my response, presenting my ideas between their questions?
Am I listening to the words that are not being spoken?
When I present, do I have the ability to tie my communication to the words, the ideas, the beliefs, and the needs of the prospect?
When I present and when I speak, am I also listening for the verbal and non-verbal cues that allow me to know that my message is being understood (or misunderstood)?
When I speak, what do I expect of the person listening?