Much of life is a sales process. At some point in every relationship we are, in effect, negotiating, selling and buying ideas. Communication is not an exact science. When we communicate, we use our words, in our own style to express our ideas on our own personal experience. This communication is to another person with different words, style, ideas and experiences. No wonder there is a lot of miscommunication!
Some people have a natural ability to build rapport and convince others to see things their way. They are natural sales people. Someone that can “demonstrate” that their product or idea is the best way to go. The style of natural sales people can vary. However, the two things all natural sales people have in common is that they are confident in their ability to persuade others and they can handle rejection.
For the rest of us, there is on-the-job-training, sales classes, trial and error, etc.
Aside from building confidence and diminishing the impact of rejection, the next big step to improve sales ability is to improve communications skills. Communication is a collection of words, the way the words are used, the tone and quality of our voice and non-verbal cues, such as body language.
Non-verbal communication, body language and the use of mirroring and matching the prospect are excellent techniques to build rapport. Rapport is necessary to have the prospect lower their defenses in order to be open to the ideas of another person. Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), or any good sales class covers body language in detail.
Understanding the power of non-verbal communication and body language is a “must have” skill for sales people. If the non-verbal communication is not congruent with the verbal communication, there will most likely be a failure in the overall communication.
Verbal skills often take the most time to master. This is because it is much more complex and subtle then non-verbal skills. Any specific word might seem obvious, but is it? For example, take the word “love.” “Love” to one person might mean a warm cozy feeling they get around a friend. To another, “love” might mean toiling in the coal mines to support their family. Someone else might think “love” means no score in tennis.
Also, the tone, or how we say the words will elicit different meanings. Consider the phrase “I did not do that.” By emphasizing a different word, one can invoke a different meaning to that phrase. Stressing the word “I” as in “I did not do that.” is a different meaning from stressing the word “that” as in “I did not do that.” \
Humans must make assumptions and generalizations; otherwise we would get bogged down with the first few words we speak seeking clarification. The key is to learn to be flexible enough with one’s communication skills in order to be more like the other person. Adapting to the other person’s style will greatly improve the chance of getting one’s message across the communication divide.
A simple, but effective technique is to use the other person’s words when talking. If the prospect says they want a “solid policy at a cheap price” do not say back to them that they want a “a cost effective comprehensive policy.” A person’s words have a unique meaning to them, so just use them. Otherwise, rapport will be lost.
A second technique is to be vague when soliciting a prospect’s feelings, thoughts, desires, vision, etc. This is a classic hypnosis technique. Point the prospect in the desired direction, but let them have their own experience, without outside influence or corruption. A hypnotist might say, “so, as you are experiencing those feelings that are important to you…” A sales person might say “think of all the things that are valuable to you that need protection.”
In fact, most good sales techniques are the same techniques used in hypnosis and NLP. A natural sales person, a hypnotist or a NLP practitioner is able to gain rapport through the use of verbal and non-verbal skills, and then use words to have the prospect (or client) access their emotions.
Once inside the head of the prospect, one would have access to their needs, desires and fears at a deep level. This allows the salesperson to communicate the benefits of their product in a highly effective manner. Getting the prospect to a state of openness will lead to a better chance of closing the sale. However, the prospect will still have a choice to buy or not. Of course ethics in sales is imperative.
Very few people are natural sales people. Training is a must to improve communications skills for the average person. A good sales class will cover basic communication skills used specifically for sales. NLP classes will offer a well-rounded approach to general communication skills. Even conversational hypnosis classes are becoming mainstream. Conversational hypnosis is the art of using verbal skills to gain deep rapport very quickly.
Sales are not just a function of a good product at a good price. Relationships are a major factor. Communication is a significant part of relationships. Therefore, sales are a function of communication skills.
Agency owners and sales managers need to develop a training program for all producers. Some of the work can be done in-house. Some training is best left to experienced outside trainers.
Schoeffler and Oak are partners at the international consulting firm Oak & Associates, providing services for mergers, acquisitions, management and financial consulting. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 707-935-6565. Web site: www.oakandassociates.com.