Good Communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity

Nat turner

I’m BAAAACCCCKKKK!!

After a week off I’m recharged and ready dive back into the whole idea of communication and the critical part that it plays in building relationships.

Here’s a thought to ponder as we get started:

It’s been said that nothing happens until someone sells something.  Revenue doesn’t happen absent a sale- and for the record, we’re not talking about transactional, one-time sales, but ongoing sales.

So, as sales professionals, if that is our goal, let’s backward engineer this:

For revenue to come in, a sale has to happen

For a sale to happen, a relationship has to be established

For a relationship to be established, a connection needs to be made

For a connection to be made, communication has to happen.

So, I think it’s safe to say that communication is the foundation of sales and keeping a steady revenue stream flowing into your company and business.

Ok, now with that established, let’s talk about what we say and why we say it.

This is a throwback to my newsletter two weeks ago on the Communication Cycle (link) and if you remember, I referred to the Communication Three-Legged Stool- The Message, The Medium, and the Audience.  In light of what we just established (that for a sale to happen communication has to happen) it’s imperative that we communicate to the right people, in the right way, with the right message.

Next week I’m going to dive into your audience- who you’re communicating with.  This week I want to focus on What you’re saying and why you’re saying it.

Say What?

Your message is critical.  If communication is the foundation of your sales, then your message is the footer, the foundation that supports the foundation of your communication.

Now, your audience will largely determine your messaging, and we’ll dive into that next week.

But, there are some overall key points we need to understand when we’re crafting the message that are critical no matter who our audience is.

There are a number of conversation types we can have in sales, here are just a few:

Networking, Discovery, Prospecting, Proposing, Service, Conflict/Trouble, Referral, just to name a few.  Let’s look at these and talk about some important points for each.

Networking

I think all conversations start out this way. Whether on Zoom or send in intro email for a meeting, we’re trying to establish a connection with the other person.  Do we fit into each other’s network?  We should enter into these conversations eager and curious to learn about the other person and how we might serve them.  Oftentimes in the course of even the initial communication this can move into a Discovery Conversation.

Discovery

We’ve unearthed some information that some mutual benefits can happen here.  It’s important to continue the line of conversation thinking how we can serve them and being curious about where they are in their journey.  If we pivot too quickly to “Oh, I can help you with that!” we take the focus away from them and put it squarely on us.  We want to continue to treat this as a conversation, not flip the switch to pitch!

Prospecting

I believe that even if your conversation is for the purposes of Prospecting, you start with the Networking/Discovery framework of curiosity and service.  Even if you (or someone else) has ‘qualified’ them, do you REALLY know if you can help/serve them?  Continuing to be curious and dive deep into the solutions they are looking for will determine if you can truly help them.  This can be difficult.  The temptation is that they’ve raised their hand and/or been identified as a qualified lead so I need to prove to them how I can help.  When we do that we end up coming in as the know-it-all and we do more talking than listening. Anytime that happens we run the risk of miscommunication happening.  Stay curious, stay servant-focused.

Proposing

Ah, we’ve had the important conversations.  We’ve listened and stayed curious and made some important discoveries about how we can help.  Now it’s time to overwhelm them with information overload and “shock and awe” so they see how awesome we are!!!!  

No…. No… NO!!!  

I think oftentimes when we haven’t had the proper conversations in the Discovery and Prospecting phases our prospects as for proposals just to shut us up!  I know that’s happened to me.

A recent study by Gartner reveals that a startling 38% of B2B deals end in… wait for it… NO DECISION!  In my eyes that’s worse than a no, because you’re in some weird limbo of not knowing where you stand.

Could it be that some of these deals end in no decision because on the Proposal Conversation we’ve forgot that this is all about our prospect and what they need, not what we want to give them??

Don Barden in his book “The Perfect Plan” tells us that ten minutes after a presentation the listeners/watchers has only retained 6% of what they were told.”  It only take 10 minutes for them to forget over 90% of what you told them.  

But, as Don reminds us, they will remember 100% of how you made them feel.

So, stay focused on them and how your solution can serve them, their goals, their needs.  

You want them to be comfortable with you so that if there’s a key element they don’t remember, instead of going to the land of limbo, they’ll be back in touch.  

Also, at the end of the presentation make a follow-up appointment for next steps.

I learned this great line. “Jane, I’ve really enjoyed our talk today. What do you think our next best step is?”  

Service

This is any kind of communication that happens with your current clients.  It can be for additional services, quality assurance checks, quarterly business reviews, and complaints/problems.

I think regularly scheduled meetings with your top clients is imperative.  If we want a relationship with our clients we need to connect with them on a consistent basis.  If you’re only calling on your clients (especially your top-tier clients) when you need an order (end of month, end of quarter, end of year) what are you saying to them?  To me it says I only care about you when you can do something for me!

How often are you sending them information that care about that affects their industry or position?  Are you connecting them with people in your network that they can benefit from or that can benefit from them?

If there’s a problem or a complaint I highly recommend you deal with that in person and/or over the phone.  One of the biggest contributing factors to miscommunication during a crisis is that the wrong medium is used.  When we utilize asynchronous communication mediums like email, text message or social media direct message, we run the risk of miscommunication every time. Why?  Intent behind the works cannot be expressed adequately. Also, we almost always type out things we would never say to someone in person or on the phone.  This can escalate a situation quickly and unnecessarily.

I always recommend you call or have an in-person meeting (video call can be in-person) so you each can hear voice inflection.  

When I called on clients in our promotional products business I would always tell them up front- it wasn’t a case of IF something would go wrong with an order, but of WHEN.  The simple fact is in that industry mistakes happen, it’s always in how you deal with them.  Communicate up front and often and you can actually turn these misfortunes into opportunities.

Referral

I believe the best way for this communication to take place is when it’s initiated by the other person.  We all know that we’re supposed to ask for referrals.  All the great sales training tells us how to do it. But, it’s been my experience that the best referrals I’ve received came when someone I have a great business relationship with has told someone that they HAD to talk to me.

Now, that shouldn’t keep you from asking for referrals.  That communication can be quick and simple.  I usually do this in-person and I come with names of people they are connected with on LinkedIn and ask if they would be able to make the introduction for me.  This way, they hear my voice inflection, I stay humble and matter of fact.  I think if you choose to ask for this via email or direct message you risk coming off as demanding.  

And, most importantly- if you’re not having regular conversations with your clients and you contact them out of the blue asking for referrals, you will come off as selfish and off-putting.

Now that we’ve tackled the message, next week we’ll take a look at the other two legs: the medium (how we communicate) and our receiver (our audience).

Need help with your communication? I’d be happy to offer a 30-minute complimentary coaching session, just click HERE to schedule!

Originally published on Bill McCormick’s LinkedIn.

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