Sales is an exercise in communication. Although sales is often considered a skill that a person is either born with or not, there are key communication habits that individuals can develop in order to improve their sales acumen. Communication styles are important—one must be able to convey enthusiasm and have some level of persuasiveness that motivates potential buyers to take the necessary steps to become customers. Although some may have natural abilities along these lines, only the salespeople who work on particular communication skills become high performers who can consistently achieve results in a variety of environments and market conditions.
Successful salespeople have the ability to listen, learn, and improve their communication skills to reach the highest levels of success in the field. Sales professionals of all levels, from sales development reps to sales managers, can benefit from focusing on specific components of effective communication to sharpen their performance and enhance results.
This post discusses the key aspects of the sales communication toolkit and how these communication skills can improve sales success.
Do you practice active listening? Are you thinking of your next question, rebuttal, or pitch angle when the customer is introducing themselves or talking about their problem? If so, you are most likely not actively listening. This is a common mistake that many salespeople make.
Active listening means not only hearing the words being spoken, but also understanding the complete message being conveyed. One way to practice this would be to repeat customer comments and ask, “Is that accurate?” Another way to practice active listening is to ask questions based only on customer comments until there is an extremely clear understanding of their point of view or issue.
Understanding body language
Salespeople do not need to be mind readers, but they should certainly have some ability to read body language. Mirroring and matching body language, speech pacing, and eye contact can help put customers at ease and build a foundation from which to build rapport. Also, understanding physical cues that convey negative emotional states, such as discomfort or confusion, can help salespeople learn more about customer concerns and perspectives.
Assumptions and empathy
Assume nothing and ask as many questions as possible. Even if something seems obvious, asking the question allows the customer to answer in their terms. This helps you learn more about how they are thinking about their problem and what solutions they are likely to consider. There are scenarios in which errant assumptions cause misunderstandings that are costly to the sales process. Mistakenly assuming budget authority, timeline, or lack of competition in a deal can create negative consequences such as deals that do not close and unrealistic pipelines.
Asking questions instead of assuming also allows you to be more empathetic when speaking with customers. Letting customers describe their situations will create a better understanding of how they think and support communicating in the customer’s language. When customers sense that they are heard and understood as individuals with unique sets of circumstances, the dynamic between the buyer and the salesperson shifts to a more collaborative relationship which is helpful as the buying process continues.
Become a subject matter expert
Show that you are someone who spends time in your industry and is focused on being the best advisor possible. Do not be afraid to show customers and prospects that your interest in this field goes beyond your role as a salesperson. Follow published experts in your field and share their content with your customers. This will show your customers that you are someone they can look to for an informed opinion or fresh ideas. As you build this reputation, your ability to speak with confidence will make your guidance more compelling. In turn, you will be more effective as you lead customers through their important buying decisions.
Sales professionals were once information gatekeepers who were valuable as sources of product and technical information. Now, customers view this information as widely available and instead look to salespeople for advice and guidance. Those salespeople who are viewed as trusted advisors stand out and have success with a variety of buyer audiences.
Be genuine and honest
There are some teams where bending the truth or using trite expressions to try to convert customers is accepted. Although it might seem like these approaches could net short-term gains, these habits should never be supported in your teams. Salespeople are most effective when they are trusted and believed based on their valuable expertise and perspective.
Salespeople have the unique advantage of speaking to a variety of customers who have the same problem. This gives sales team members a wealth of understanding and knowledge of how people view the specific problem and the solutions available on the market. There is no need to use gimmicks or half-truths when speaking with customers about your solution, pricing, or the competitive landscape. In order to build trust and rapport that creates deep, long-term customer relationships, salespeople should be transparent and straightforward in all aspects of communicating with customers.
As technology advances, many managerial and administrative aspects of the sales role are being automated. AI tools can now enable sales teams to conduct follow up activities at scale. These tools will persistently reach out to prospective customers and respond in a personalized manner. AI solutions do this by actually interpreting specific customer inquiries and responding to details, in a human-like fashion.
This use of AI in communications helps customers proceed to advanced stages in their buying process before even engaging your sales teams. AI helps your customer base become more informed and motivated before these prospects engage with your sales staff.
Whether prospects are engaged by phone calls, web conferences, or in-person meetings, sales success depends on continuous improvement in communication skills. Sales professionals at all stages of their careers will also find that becoming a subject matter expert and adding technology such as AI to their prospect engagement process will help them be more effective, work better with customers, and ultimately close more business.
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