Dave Chace (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
president of Training Allies, a CE-focused
training firm in Philadelphia. Your business requires face-to-face communication with clients on a constant basis. Talk is easy, but great communication is a real skill and lies at the heart of virtually every relationship. Understanding the finer nuances of communication can give you a huge advantage in any interaction and can often mean the difference between deals and duds.
Great communicators know that the fundamental goal of communication is not just to understand each other, but also to allow the other person to leave the interaction feeling good–to preserve or enhance their self-esteem–which in turns makes them feel better about you. This element is critical because the instant someone feels foolish or uncomfortable, the conversation unravels and your stock starts dropping.
Volumes have been written on the art of communication, but for a shortcut, let’s focus on three simple elements that help determine how well you get your message across: body language, tone of voice, and finally, the actual words you choose.
Body language conveys a huge amount of information. Studies have shown that things like eye contact, posture, and facial expression make up almost 40 percent of all communication.
Being positive is important because clients don’t like to spend money with cranky salespeople. If they hear irritation in your voice, they’ll assume they’re the cause, even if it’s actually because you got a flat tire on the way to their job site. As human beings, we’re all acutely aware of how facial expressions convey feelings. In general, that means you should practice smiling at your clients because it shows you like them; which typically results in them liking you back. People buy from people they like, so do the math.
Eye contact is also important, but as someone once said, “There’s a fine line between steady eye contact and the steely gaze of a serial killer.” We tend to distrust people who won’t make eye contact, and yet are unnerved by people who stare; so maintain a good balance.
Additionally, studies show that people who look to their right when answering a question are often making up the answer. Scientists call it “visual construction” but the rest of us call it lying…and a surprising number of people pick up on it. So, put a smile on your face, and periodically break eye contact to your left (which indicates remembering).
Tone of Voice
It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it. That means when talking with clients, it’s a good idea to “put a smile in your voice” to make sure you’re projecting a positive image. In fact, if you are smiling when you speak with them, it’s almost impossible to sound downbeat or irritated. Go ahead, try it.
Being positive is important because clients don’t like to spend money with cranky salespeople. If they hear irritation in your voice, they’ll assume they’re the cause, even if it’s actually because you got a flat tire on the way to their job site.
Keep It Simple
We work in an industry with lots of technical jargon. Unfortunately, most of your customers don’t understand the jargon, and can feel foolish, intimidated, or even offended if you use a lot of terms they don’t understand; particularly when explaining something that will cost them thousands of dollars.
An important rule of thumb is to use what I call the “fifth grade rule” when discussing technology with a client. Simply put, when discussing anything technical, explain it as you would for a fifth grader. Don’t worry about sounding condescending. You won’t. In fact, the majority of customers will greatly appreciate your efforts to keep it simple and understandable.
Also, use their words. That means when they say, “I was thinking of separate control screens in the dining room and kitchen.” You should say, “Control screens in the kitchen and dining room sound like a good idea.” Resist the temptation to say, “You mean touchscreens? Yes, separate touchscreens are a good idea.” Correcting them on the spot will make them feel stupid. You can always correct them gently later by saying, “We talked about separate touchscreens in the dining room and kitchen.”
You’re out there communicating with people every day, and your business depends on doing it right. These simple tips around body language, words, and tone of voice can help you take your communication skills to the next level, and win you more deals.