Books, articles, and blogs constantly offer rules, strategies, and tips on how to sell in the new economy of the 21stcentury, many of them very useful. But most overlook the fundamental communications know-how and language skills necessary for maximizing the sales potential of their readers’ businesses.
Employers responding to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2015 survey put communications skills at the top of the skills most sought from college students. According to Mimi Collins, NACE director of communications, these skills have headed the list for eight consecutive years. “Many specifically cited writing skills being weak and noted lack of verbal, listening, and presentation skills among new college graduates.” Yet these grads are your new workforce and, face it, they are your new salespeople.
No question that the ROI from investing in continuing education, even after receiving a degree, is limitless. And here are some of the prerequisites to selling success.
Learning to write well to reach a target audience in language that audience is comfortable with involves:
Storytelling The ability to structure a narrative shapes everything we do, helping to tell effective stories in pitches, e-mails, and memos.
Mechanics Persuasive and captivating storytelling is impossible without mastering the building blocks of all communications: grammar, syntax, word choices, spelling, punctuation.
The transactional nature of conversation is a tool for learning, understanding, and persuading. The art of conversation emphasizes:
Listening Listen closely to what your customer is saying and follow up to broaden the conversation and uncover useful information.
Responding Respond to others’ ideas and integrate them into your narrative. It will create rapport and enable you to match your customers’ concerns, expressions, and body language—all effective tools for leading conversations and influencing discussions without overwhelming your customers.
Concluding Establish and maintain control over a discussion by asking relevant questions, seeking clarification, and summarizing key points and arguments.
Learning to understand and respond to the needs and values of your customer in order to make persuasive arguments necessitates:
Gathering and crystallizing ideas Use information and insights to build your narrative and demonstrate a sympathetic understanding of the other side’s issues, arguments, and stakes.
Being aware of your customers’ needs Learn their rules of the game; find out what’s in it for them.
Understanding communications patterns Learn to avoid talking past each other and focus on communicating clearly, effectively, and directly in conversations, whether you’re in or out of your own comfort zone.
Consider how much new and improved sales capability will enhance the equity of your brand and reinforce your promise of professionalism and responsiveness in every customer interaction.
Whether you’re selling brick-and-mortar or online, once you and your sales colleagues have learned and integrated these skills and insights, you will be able to represent and sell your company’s products and services effectively and professionally. Using these communications tools, your sales team will be able to network, develop rapport with prospects, and focus power and emotion in every pitch with that much more panache.
Your power to project confidence, frame a discussion, present facts and ideas intelligently, close a sale, and develop an enduring relationship with your customer will be enormously enhanced through greater ability to communicate clearly and with empathy.