Why Good Communication Is Essential to Sales

By Justin Zappulla, Managing Partner, Janek Performance Group
A group of people standing outside talking

Mark Twain famously said, “The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” His statement, while not meant for salespeople, is a lesson every sales rep would be wise to remember. Selling is fundamentally about communication value. Value can be created through one conversation, one email, or one social media post at a time.

Sales reps who can improve their communication skills enhance their value to their clients and company. In this article we will explore how sales reps can enhance their communication skills, choose the right words, and prevent pesky errors that cost them deals.

More You and Less I

If the goal is to have a productive conversation, the less you talk about yourself, your company, and your product, the more your client will value you. Very often, sales reps begin the conversation talking about themselves with “I” statements.

The difference between “I” and “you” is subtle, but it’s the difference between talking about yourself or talking directly to your prospects. By deliberately removing “I” from your communications, it forces you to think about your prospect. Obviously, we can’t completely remove “I” from all communications and conversations, but, by using it less, we become better communicators. Starting the conversation with “you” is more engaging, don’t you think?

Select Your Numbers Carefully

As salespeople, we deal with numbers daily. Regardless of whether we are making a presentation or sending a contract, presenting numbers and dealing with data are critical aspects of selling. But we have limited time to get our point across before we risk losing our audience’s attention.

Organizing and presenting numbers coherently is a communication skill and, like any skill, how well you do it will impact your performance. Little changes can make a big difference in how well your audience understands your numbers. When presenting numbers, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be precise. Often, sales reps will make range estimates on everything from price, term, or length of time to positive return on investment. A precise numerical value indicates to prospects a greater confidence and therefore a greater probability of them achieving the benefit. For example, think about purchasing a new cell phone. One has battery life listed between 8-14 hours, while the other has battery life listed at 12 hours. Which one would give you a greater sense of confidence? That is the benefit of having precise numbers. Clearly, presenting precise values can make it easier for comparison.
  • Do the arithmetic for your prospects, and never assume they will do it themselves. Prospects are comfortable with the status quo. A simple way to bring this point to life is to ask if they have ever calculated the cost of inaction. For example, have they ever calculated the cost of losing one sale per week? From this basic question, you can walk your prospect through the monthly, quarterly, or yearly cost of inaction. What started out as a small problem they tolerate can quickly snowball into a serious financial issue they will want to fix.

Salesperson Behind the Keyboard

Let’s face it: In today’s digital-first environment, selling from behind a keyboard is the norm. That means there’s an opportunity for typos or miscommunication. It can be embarrassing to send emails that contain multiple misspelled words and mistakes in punctuation and grammar. Using a wrong word or poor sentence structure has never closed a deal for sales reps anywhere, and, today, a multitude of applications (many of them free) make composing a well-written email a breeze. Some applications worth mentioning here include Grammarly and WordHippo.

As sales reps, we are not trying to write a novel with every prospect, but we certainly don’t want to make a first-grade grammar mistake. Such mistakes can lead to the loss of an opportunity, impact our credibility, and hinder our reputation.

Why Do You Say That?

Sometimes a prospect will say something that catches us off guard, comes across aggressive, or puts us on the defensive. In moments like these, we need a simple phrase to buy time to think. It’s like we need to push the pause button and formulate a response. You know the feeling when a prospect says something you did not anticipate, and you feel a chemical reaction in your body. Your first response might be something defensive that can lead to the prospect defending their position.

Instead of saying the first thing that pops into your head, try, “Why did you say that?” This will allow your prospect to clarify their remarks and give you time to prepare a better response. You can use multiple variations of this reply, like…

  1. That’s interesting. Tell me more.
  2. Really? Help me understand.

Sometimes just finding out why the other person said what they said gives us the ability to find better solutions. The prospect may want to talk more, and this gives them the opportunity. This way, the conversation will be more enlightening for both you and the prospects. Once you memorize this response, you can use it with the least amount of brainpower, without needing to read the other person’s mind.

In Conclusion

These communication techniques may sound like basic details, but covering the basics never costs a sales rep a deal. Great sales reps understand the value of clear communication as well as the debilitating power of unclear communication. The more you use these tools and techniques, the more effective your communication will become. Making the commitment to improving personal communications is an essential skill that can benefit all sales reps. The best of the best are always looking for ways to improve and are never comfortable with what they did yesterday.

For more helpful advice on how to advance your selling skills, visit Janek’s resource library.