Next time you pore over that PowerPoint presentation to choose the right words, consider this: Less than 10 percent of communication comes from what we actually say. The vast majority of the message comes through the tone and volume of our voice and the facial expressions and body language we exhibit. The same principle holds for your customers and prospects, whose nonverbal reactions and responses during discussions can communicate much more than the words used.
In addition to being experts in their products and customers’ businesses, the best sales executives possess excellent interpersonal skills that build trust, respect, credibility, likability, responsibility and accountability. Those interpersonal skills enable world-class sales reps to build relationships by matching their communication skills to their prospects.
Here are some tactics you can use to build the best possible relationships:
- Be mindful of how your own feelings, attitudes, beliefs and intentions impact the quality of the relationship. Once aware, learn to manage your internal signals. Often our own biases and paradigms cloud our ability to fully communicate and understand the messages being conveyed.
- Approach your customers without judgment. Accept customers for who they are and remember they are doing the best they can. Separate your reaction from your response and work to avoid escalating your tone and communication style – especially when under stress.
- Be fully present in the moment. When your attention drifts, the quality of the relationship suffers, so avoid distractions and train your mind to dismiss irrelevant thoughts.
Relationships depend on the exchange of information between two people. The quality of the relationship is dependent upon the value each participant adds to the other. To best relate to your customer, you should:
- Pay close attention to the customer’s reactions and responses. Keep your eyes and ears open and notice any shifts in mood, body language or voice. Focus not only on what is said, but how it is said. Use both the verbal and nonverbal cues to make sure that you have complete understanding.
- Align yourself with the other person. People like people who are like them. Match characteristics of your customers and prospects to help create trust and respect.
- Be in step on as many characteristics as possible. Be curious about the other person and ask him or her about their position, responsibilities, goals and plans, both professional and personal. Your questions make the customer feel important.
- Listen more than you talk. When we truly listen, we show we care. Look closely at the speaker and restate what you’ve heard so they know they have your full attention.
In addition, it’s important to maintain the relationship even if the customer is not in the buying mode. This lets the customer feel valued and appreciated. Good business relationships serve the needs of all participants – not just the salesperson.
It’s equally important that you follow through on your commitments and be accountable. You will improve your standing every time you demonstrate responsibility, accountability, and meet or exceed the expectations you set with your customers.
By incorporating all of these tactics, you not only build credibility, you build lasting relationships. These strong connections will lead to larger referral pipelines and new sales channels as you develop a reputation for being one of the best in the business.
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