It’s human nature to focus on self. On top of that, the perception (fair or not) is that sellers are even more self-oriented than people in most other professions. To overcome this perception and temper that human nature, sales managers, sales trainers, and sellers need to work more deliberately to focus first on others.
Developing an other-orientation won’t be easy. After all, you’re extremely busy and have clear objectives to convey information on how to sell, what to sell, and how much to sell. You also have new policies to introduce, technology to share, metrics to analyze and so much more. You aim for efficiency in communication. You focus on sharing what you know.
That’s called dissemination of information. It’s not effective knowledge transference. There’s a difference, and your ability to enable sales absolutely depends on understanding this difference.
Consider the other side of communication. That’s where the recipients – your sellers or buyers – receive, process and understand what you’re conveying so they can correctly act on the information you’ve provided.
Doing this requires focusing first on the needs of your listener. I was reminded of this on a recent flight on Southwest Airlines. The flight attendant (as many on this airline do) entertained us and showed off a little bit. He was amusing but ineffective. What he did was deliver the safety message – all but a few of the most salient points – in rapid fire auctioneer- style fast talk. It was amusing. Until I realized that there were several infrequent (first-time?) flyers near me.
For a split second, I wondered what would happen if we truly needed those oxygen masks and my seatmates hadn’t been able to receive and process the important information being shared.
The same thing happens every day in sales meetings and sales training classes when managers or trainers have information to disseminate but do it in a way that is wholly ineffective. It happens every day in buyer/seller meetings, too.
When information is shared just for the sake of checking it off the to-do list, the person sharing sounds like the Peanuts cartoons teacher – “wah wah wah wah wah waaaahh…..” That’s a waste of time for everyone.
An orientation to others will help you engage and meet the needs of your listener(s). With these seven tips, you’ll be more effective and more other-oriented in your communication.
- Go into the meeting determined to be effective instead of being efficient. That may require more preparation, more time, or more variety in how you present information. Learn techniques to captivate your listeners and mobilize them into action.
- Before meeting, find out what the group needs. Don’t assume. Don’t rely on what you’ve heard secondhand. I often wonder, for example, why so few sales trainers conduct surveys or needs assessment interviews with training participants before they design and deliver training.
- Slow down. Allow time for each key point to be processed and understood. Nobody listens as fast as you talk. Treat your presentation like a fine meal. It should be well-paced so others can savor, chew on and digest all you have to offer.
- Check periodically for understanding and retention of information. Consider role-play, skills practice, examples, breakout discussions or other techniques that will engage the people who are listening. Allow time for Q & A and don’t make it an afterthought at the end of the meeting. When people don’t ask questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand. More often than not, it means no one wants to be the person who prolonged the meeting.
- Deliver important information more than once and in multiple ways. We all need to hear the same thing numerous times before it sticks. Repetition and frequency help cut through all the other clutter. We’re all bombarded daily by more messages than we could possibly process and remember. Give your messages a better shot by offering them more than one time. Since you’ll be putting the same message out multiple times, vary it so you appeal to various learning styles, too. Don’t teach solely the way you prefer to learn. Consider the needs of all learners and provide information verbally, in writing, hands-on and interactively.
- Remember, it’s not about spewing out the information. It’s about how well recipients receive the information. For that reason, pay attention to the people you’re talking to and empathize with the looks they may be giving as clues to you, the speaker. Don’t ignore puzzled expressions or questions. Engage and check for understanding.
- Follow up, too. Some people won’t have questions immediately. Others won’t feel safe asking in a group. Some will have additional ideas or questions that come later. The more important the information you’ve shared, the more conversations you’ll need to have about it. One and done doesn’t work for enabling people to grasp and apply new information.
When your communication considers the needs of others in these ways, you’ll enable them to act upon what you’ve shared. As a manager, a trainer, or a seller, your success is measured by your ability to communicate so effectively that you compel others into action. Don’t take shortcuts that impair your effectiveness!