You know communication skills are key to sales. Do you know which sales communication skills are critical? A successful client conversation comes down to 10 points. They are simple to list, but take a little practice to master. Don’t worry! Each one leads naturally into the next, reminding you of where you’re headed. These techniques are effective in person and on the phone. Practice each one for a full day. You’ll be a better salesperson in 10 work days. Here are the 10 most important sales communication skills:
Start with a smile and a warm greeting.
You know the smile you give when you unexpectedly see a dear friend out of the blue? That’s the smile to share with your prospect the moment you make eye contact, before either of you have said a word. You’re setting the tone for the entire interaction. (You can even tell if someone on the phone or radio is smiling when they talk!) How do you feel when you receive that smile? It’s the same relaxation you experience when you are welcomed and respected. Give that smile, and mean it. Humans tend toward reciprocity. This means people usually respond in kind to the way they are treated. If they’re treated pleasantly and in an agreeable way, they’ll tend to react in a pleasant and agreeable way.
Call people by name.
This is a basic to communication skills, but sometimes we get out of the habit. People feel more important when called by name. If you don’t know their name up front, shake their hand, introduce yourself, and ask them. Repeat their name once you have it. “It’s great to meet you, Mr. Foster. Thank you for meeting with me today.” When you need to address Mr. Foster, use his name once every 2-3 minutes. It keeps him involved, and keeps you from forgetting it! If you believe his attention may be drifting, call him by name in your next sentence or question.
Listen and mirror to sell.
Listen to your prospective customer. If they are speaking quickly and gesturing with their hands, they are probably excited. Mirror that behavior. Likewise, if they are speaking slowly and deliberately, be sure to enunciate and speak at a slower pace. Don’t copy their voice or hand gestures exactly. (That annoys people!) These mirroring techniques have been shown to make people feel understood and respected, even when no words are spoken. Putting your body in the some of the same postures they use will help you understand their mood and attitude. If your customer has a slumping posture, slouch just a little, and see how it makes you feel. Once you correctly perceive their mood and attitude, you’ll address their questions more effectively.
Talk about, and empathize with, your client.
The only context that matters to your client is how to meet his own needs, achieve his own goals, and solve his own problems. Most people prefer to talk about themselves. Encourage them to talk by using probing questions. As they talk, you’ll be learning about what product to sell them, why, and often how. Everything they share tells you something about their needs, their qualifications, and about their buying process. Do not interrupt. It’s good stuff. Apply what you’re hearing to your sales pitch.
Thou shalt not speak ill of the competition.
Never, ever, ever. Putting someone else down doesn’t make your product or company look any better, it just makes you look petty and like a gossip. It’s unprofessional, and in some companies it will get you fired. Most importantly, you are not talking about your product or your customer! Bring your attention back to where it belongs. You can emphasize that your product wears longer, or that your service is backed with a guarantee. Ex: “You can make this purchase with peace of mind. We’re proud of our guarantee. It’s the longest and most complete in the industry.”
Sales communication skills involve not being led by a customer, so even if they are frustrated with another provider, stay on message. Ask them more questions about their goals, but don’t follow them down the gossip rabbit hole!
When your shopper finishes a thought or asks a question, be prepared with the next concept or question you want them to address.
This requires excellent active listening skills. For example: Client: “…and that’s why I’m in the market for a new system.” Short pause. You: “Mr. Client, we have a large selection of systems that will meet your needs. Tell me about how your staff uses the system. What do they need the system to do more effectively?” Your appropriate response is tied directly to the next probing question. This technique should be employed on most or all occasions that you speak in the sales process. It makes you efficient, responsive, and most importantly, keeps your prospect talking. Conversational control usually fails if you have not mastered this skill.
Praise/thank your prospect.
There is always a sincere reason to praise them, and it shows them you think they are important. Ex: “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “Thank you for seeing me today.” Even when they call you, work it in. “It’s good to hear from you. What can I do for you?” Your client is, and should feel like, the most important thing you have going on right now. Ever come across one of those salespeople who treat prospects like they’re an interruption or an annoyance? Giving the impression you find your agenda more important than you find your client is a sure way to see to it they don’t “bother” you again.
Learn everything you can about their need, timeline, and decision process.
Sales is a customer focused activity. If they ask how you are, you’re fine, or great or terrific. Now turn the focus back to your shopper. No one cares if your feet hurt, or if you’re in a lousy mood. Well, at least, your client doesn’t. Clients want service. Pleasant service. Make sure they get it.
Ask about why they are in the market. Ask what else they are in the market for. When do they want a solution in place? What did they like about their previous solution? What has kept them from making a purchase so far? Any information you can gain can help you recommend the right product or service to meet their needs and wants.
Communication isn’t all spoken, so make sure you’re watching body language, facial expression, and noticing their situation. Are they being interrupted by others asking questions? Are they nervous, frustrated, or tired? Do they want to be in charge of the conversation? All of this communication helps you understand their need and their decision process better.
Try to avoid saying “NO.”
Your shopper sometimes will ask you for things you can’t deliver. If they ask, “Can you give me another 20% off?” You say, “What we can do for you is this -.” When they say they want lifetime service free of charge, you can say, “We usually meet that need by doing this -.” Addressing the question with the available choices is usually enough to bring the customer back to discussing the possible. If you are forced to deny a specific request, be gentle but clear: “We don’t offer that option. We’re happy to offer this.” “No” is always a last resort. If you have to say it, don’t leave it hanging in the air like a bug you want to swat! Follow it up immediately with the solution you do offer.
Create a “Yes” frame of mind.
In your discussion with your client, ask questions which lend themselves to “yes” answers. Ex: “You appreciate a good value, don’t you?” Or, “Your family is the priority here, right?” Follow these questions up with immediate facts that serve the subject. Ex: “This insurance policy protects your family in the case of a tragedy, and also creates an investment tool to make the good times even better.” Once a person sees that you’re on the same wavelength, they relax some of their defenses. Feeling understood helps people build relationships. Prospects stop resisting and start problem solving, which means buying.
In conclusion, your communication in sales is how you do your job. Evolve your skills throughout your career. We’re never finished becoming a more effective sales pro. Keep polishing these skills, and watch your career grow!