Activities to Build Communication

By Lain Ehmann

Ask sales managers what their biggest challenge is and communication more than likely will top their list. Whether it’s communicating with customers, the factory or other members of the sales team, finding ways to effectively convey and receive information seems to be troublesome. Also, it seems that no matter how great communication is, there’s always room for improvement. To that end we’ve gathered a handful of exercises that will help your team up their communication quotient.

1. Matisse Madness. Divide the team into pairs. Person A receives an envelope with a set of instructions. Person B receives a blank sheet of paper and a pencil or pack of crayons. Without watching what their partners are doing, have A read the directions aloud: Fold the paper in half. Make a small mark in the upper corner. Now fold down the corner to the center. Make a line across the page and so on. After completing the steps, A looks at what B completed and the two compare their results to those of the other teams. The facilitator can talk about how, without specific guidelines, our interpretation of directions can vary greatly. Try the exercise again with a more specific set of directions and see if the results resemble each other more than in the first round.

2. Me, Myself and I. Brian Cole Miller, author of Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers (AMACOM, 2003) and founder of Working Solutions, suggests this exercise when participants need to practice listening to others rather than focusing on themselves. Break the sales team into pairs. Have one partner speak without stopping for three minutes on any topic without using the word I. Meanwhile, the other person must listen without saying a word, even yeah or uh-huh. After three minutes have the partners swap places and repeat the exercise. The facilitator can discuss which role was easier for the participants, how they felt in each role and how we can phrase our communications to better focus on the other person, even when we’re talking.

3. Charades. Nonverbal communication, including the ability to read others’ messages and convey our own accurately, is a critical part of every salesperson’s arsenal. A good, old-fashioned game of charades can help participants become more aware of their body language and how they present themselves to others. This can be done as a group or in teams. To make it more applicable, create business-themed clues for team members to act out, such as root cause analysis, mean time between failures and sales force automation system. Not brave enough for those examples? Then hand everyone a fortune cookie and have people act out their fortunes. Not only will you give them a chance to practice their communication skills, you’ll also take care of the mid-afternoon snack.

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