Knowledge is power, but it is useless without the skills in communication that everyone needs to convey an idea. Schools place a lot of emphasis on the need for children in schools to learn, almost in a parrot fashion, but there is little stress placed on the importance of expression. Shouldn’t our schools teach children to think rather than repeat and to question rather than absorb?
What about after school when all the facts about famous battles and our two times table are ingrained in our psyche, what do we do with it all? If you are lucky, you will have benefited from a forward thinking school that brought you out of your shell. If not, you will have to rethink how you handle communication centric situations.
KISS Keep it Simple Stupid
As someone who taught communication skills training and was quite successful at it for many years, I have fallen asleep many nights with AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) and KISS (see above) among many other acronyms I’m not sad enough to bore you with burned into the back of my eyelids, but they are of no use if you can’t communicate.
There’s a great show on the BBC where a real life David Brent from The Office has an army of telesales staff who are nothing short of an example of how to package up all your clichés into a room and expect them to sell. Amazingly, it works for the CEO, because as he puts it “happy people sell”.
As hard as it is for me to admit, he’s actually right. Being Welsh, somewhat entitles them to admit they are not the best at communicating, but thanks to the scripted telesales calls, the staff at the ‘Call Centre’ don’t really need to think that much, which on the surface appears lucky. The fact that they are happy actually brings the otherwise boring scripts to life.
Good Communication is Confidence
It’s a fact that someone who knows what they are talking about will appear confident in what they are saying. If people believe in a product, they will sell it because enthusiasm is infectious. However, what do you do when your business is not selling extended warranties or PPI claim services over the phone? You need a different approach. You can’t expect your representatives to call themselves a consultant if all they ever do is bark a script. The very best sales people know how to communicate at a level that doesn’t even seem like communication.
The ability to extract information by asking questions properly is a gift that anyone can learn. Stop your sales people asking closed questions that invite yes or no answers and your sales people will glean all the information they need to tailor a product or service to your prospective customer or client. Open questions are easy to master if you break bad habits and they create the basis for all lengthy sales relationships. Like confident people like to speak about things they know a lot about, customers like to speak about themselves or their business and asking open questions encourages the conversation to be about them.
What Makes a Closed Question Open?
Learning to use open questions is simple, but something which needs practice. As an example, imagine your representative is trying to sell car insurance to a car rental company. Instead of asking a potential customer “Is your fleet expanding?” and instantly putting the customer on guard because they recognise a sales call, imagine what the response would be if the representative asked, “Tell me how your fleet has expanded over the last five years.” It’s a simple change that has a dramatically different result.