Communicating from the Bottom of the Iceberg

By Heather Baldwin

As a presenter, you no doubt choose your words carefully. Yet when it comes to communicating a message, words usually are simply the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The most successful salespeople intuitively use an additional dimension of language to instill their suggestions into the customer’s thought process and motivate them to action, says Steve Martin, sales trainer and author of Heavy Hitter Selling (Sand Hill, 2004). This is what persuasion is all about and anyone who wants to give powerful, convincing presentations needs to understand how to use the deeper meaning of language. After all, says Martin, “persuasion is not solely a recital of logical arguments of factual information to a customer. Instead, it is the process of projecting your entire set of beliefs and convictions on another human being.” To tap into this deeper meaning of language and start moving more customers to action, Martin says you need to take these steps.

1. Deliver your message with conviction and congruence. We’ve had two recent presidents who are masters at this skill – Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. Whatever the topic and regardless of who wrote the speech, Clinton could align his whole body to deliver the message. “He was a master of projecting congruence,” says Martin. “He has a natural ability to mark words with voice inflections and physical mannerisms.” Reagan was the same way. After one passionate, intense speech, Mikhail Gorbachev broke the ensuing silence by saying: “Mr. President, I don’t agree with you, but I can see that you really mean what you say.” That conversation is credited with establishing the foundation for many future successful negotiations. Similarly, successful salespeople “garner many new customers from past sales efforts because customers believe in them,” says Martin. “These heavy hitters internalize their message so their body, demeanor and words exude conviction.”

2. Deliver your message in different languages. Heavy Hitters build rapport by speaking a customer’s unique dialect or language. Martin isn’t suggesting you run out and take French classes. Rather, he says your language should reflect your prospects’ word catalog wiring – Are they visual, auditory or kinesthetic listeners?; body language, including breathing, hand movements, facial expression and posture; industry jargon; and the jargon of activities you have in common with your customers. “Like explorers who are making their first contact with a primitive tribe, these heavy hitters cautiously study their customers’ language before making any sudden movements,” says Martin. “They know any misinterpretation can have catastrophic results.”

3. Establish and maintain a receptive state of uninterrupted rapport with your listener. In fact, you need to create four different receptive states: personal, technical, business and political. The first priority is to build a personal-receptive state by determining prospects’ unique language, personality traits and the intersecting activities you have in common. Next, you must seek to understand the technical problem customers are trying to solve and compare them to your company’s definition of a technical fit. As you demonstrate that your primary interest is in the customers’ success, you’ll begin to build a business-receptive state where customers view you as a business consultant with the expertise to solve a problem. Finally, the political-receptive state is established when customers use your solution to achieve their personal goals.

4. Guide your listener’s internal dialogue. Internal dialogue is that never-ending, unedited conversation within your mind. Most people don’t expose this dialogue to the outside world until they pass it through an editing process. Your job is to manage the other person’s editing process. First you must establish that you are working in that person’s best interest using the first three steps above. Next, you can begin to guide the prospect’s internal dialogue by “directing it to create certain images and specific feelings and telling it to ask certain questions that limit what the listener can think about,” says Martin. To guide a person’s internal dialogue, use words and phrases such as: imagine if… or how would you feel if…. When you can do that you’re well on your way to mastering the deeper meaning of language and thus closing more sales.