Elite AgentProductivity & Best Practice

Communication Improves Sales

Every top sales person is a great communicator, and the first step towards improving sales performance is improving your communication. Where do you start? When you realise it’s not about you – it’s all about your audience! Story by Michelle Bowden.

Remember that your customer is a real live human who you have the wonderful opportunity to connect with, to influence and to help.

How often have you left a meeting with a potential customer and thought, “Oh! I wish I had said this!” or, “I wish I had said that!” Hindsight is a marvellous thing isn’t it? Come to think of it, if you’re anything like me you’ve probably had that thought with your personal conversations from time to time too. You know – those conversations where you feel a bit like you’re being railroaded into agreeing with something that you don’t actually like. And then, when you walk out you say to yourself, “What was I thinking? I don’t even want to do that!”

So, what’s going on there? Typically the reason for going blank or losing your focus in a meeting is a lack of confidence. How can we prevent ourselves from losing our ability to communicate under pressure?

There is no single thing or magic formula that is a panacea for a lack of confidence when presenting, selling or communicating. There are no short cuts, however, I would say that if you are lacking in confidence you should consider a change of approach. You know they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result! If you’re finding that you’re not building lasting relationships and getting repeat business due to a lack of confidence then it’s time to try something new.

Begin by writing a slogan in big letters on a note pad before you meet with your customer: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, IT’S ALL ABOUT MY AUDIENCE! And then try the following four tips:

Analyse your audience – it’s critical to spend some time analysing both the current and desired state of your audience. One way to do this is to ask yourself:-What is my audience thinking about me, my message and my agency?,What is my audience feeling about me, my message and my agency?and What will the atmosphere or vibe of the room be like before I present?This way you know what to expect when you walk in. Then, plan your desired outcome by asking yourself, What do I want my audience to think about me, my message and my agency?,What do I want the audience to feel about me, my message and my agency? and What do I want them to do once I have finished talking? If you can become really clear on the answers to these questions prior to the meeting, you’re setting yourself up to achieve results!

Structure the message – if you have a nice, tight, well-crafted message and you have designed it with a model that allows you to remember the information without relying on notes, then of course you’ll feel more confident! Use a model that helps you to know what to say and when to say it so that your audience’s needs are met and so you are more likely to change their behaviour.

Connect with the people – when it’s time to deliver your presentation it’s essential to re-read your slogan: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, IT’S ALL ABOUT MY AUDIENCE, and to look into the whites of your audience’s eyes – really see the people to whom you are speaking – connect. This is not the same as skimming your eye contact over their heads or pretending to look at them. Remember that your customer is a real live human who you have the wonderful opportunity to connect with, to influence and to help. This takes your focus off your own nerves and places your attention on your audience – which in turn enhances your connection or rapport with them. Nervousness is a state created by an awareness of the physiological symptoms in your body like a thumping heartbeat, dry mouth or increased body temperature. If you are not focused on yourself, you won’t be as aware of all those awful symptoms that occur, so how could you be nervous? Remember, it’s not about you, it’s all about your audience!

Get feedback – in my experience, many people focus a lot on their negative points, where they went wrong in the last meeting, and their nervousness, rather than on their positive attributes like their voice or their personal presentation.Creating a relationship with your customer that allows for you to seek feedback at the appropriate time is a great way of finding out what you are doing well.This can boost your confidence tenfold. Why not ask the people who do business with you why they choose you? Take time to give yourself a huge pat on the back and be glad about your strengths.

Learn how to hold people’s attention when you speak – I work with hundreds of people each year and most of them say to me,But Michelle, my content is so dry and boring!Well, if you think your content is dry and boring, what’s your customer supposed to think? Just because you’ve said the same thing about your business or your process hundreds of times before doesn’t mean that this customer or buyer has ever heard it before!Sometimes we forget that! I find it fascinating how many people lose their personality the minute they are asked to speak – whether it be to one person or many in a business pitch scenario. So be yourself and find the thing about what you’re selling that excites you! It’s your job as the presenter to make your presentation so interesting and relevant to your audience that they want to listen to you for longer!

I just bought a new car. It’s a Mazda CX7 and as I drove in a flurry of stress and busyness to pick up the car, just before the dealership closed, in order to be home in time for my kids, and an appointment I had to keep (note: I am a mother of three as well as a business owner) I was feeling only mildly excited about it. I’ll tell you something though, Chris (the guy who sold me the car) was a role model for all sales people everywhere! He was so excited for me it was contagious! He was an expert on all the features of the vehicle and the best way to operate them and he described it with such passion and with a truly impressive connection to me that I found myself being swept up in a flood of passion and exhilaration about this amazing feat of automotive mastery! I am now loving my new car!

You see, I have bought cars before and, like you, I’ve heard all those mean things people say about car sales people. Well, we could all learn a thing or two about selling and presenting from Chris at Brookvale Mazda that’s for sure. Chris knows his product, but there are lots of people who know their product and don’t enthuse a single person to buy it aren’t there? So what was it that he did that was so impressive? The most notable thing about Chris was that he realised that it wasn’t about him, it was all about me – the car buyer – and really knew how to hold his audience’s attention! And he hadn’t yet read this article!

Here are four things Chris did as he chatted to me in the various stages of the sales process:

  1. Storytelling – telling interesting stories brings your content to life. Stories can reinforce key points, but they must link to your content and create a benefit for the audience. Stories can be case studies, scenarios, analogies, metaphors. Your stories can come from you, from past customers, interesting snippets from the media – there is a plethora of interesting things you can add to your sales pitch to make yourself engaging!
  2. Vocal variety – your voice is one of your most powerful tools as a presenter. Develop some variety in your voice. I recommend you try a variety of volume, speed, pitch and pauses between concepts. Clear and crisp articulation with a rich resonant tone and strong power (created from diaphragmatic breathing) is a stimulating and engaging way to use your voice. Exceptional presenters warm up their voice before presenting.
  3. VAK (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) – people have different learning preferences. For visual stimulation I recommend using your sales aids, handouts, gestures, movement, props and eye contact. For auditory stimulation I recommend using vocal variety. For kinesthetic stimulation I recommend stories, analogies, examples, activities, smiling, and the most important kinesthetic thing you do in a meeting is shake hands with your customer.
  4. Extending your attention – direct eye contact where you really ‘see’ the audience makes it interesting for your audience and also makes it trickier for them to look away. You cannot command people’s attention as easily if you merely gaze over their heads or concentrate on the floor or your notes.

Why not take the time to work out which of these things you are already doing and keep doing them! And then decide which of these tips you’d like to integrate into your daily communication with your customers and buyers. If you even make a small change you will find yourself to be more interesting and engaging. The result will be that your customer will love you for it because you’re a pleasure to talk with! If they enjoy being with you they’ll likely want to work with you again and refer you to others. Whether you’re in the market for a new car or not, whether you even like the Mazda type of car, I highly recommend you go and see Chris at Brookvale Mazda!

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Michelle Bowden

Michelle Bowden is Australia’s presentation and influencing skills expert. She is the author of Don’t Picture Me Naked.
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