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How advanced communication skills impact productivity

by Marguerite Zimmerman

It goes without saying that in sales those who have advanced communication skills are more likely to be able to sell more complex deals, write more business, and convert a higher percentage of that business.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll paint a picture by sharing two examples with you:

The Relationship Seller

A few years back I was selling to a North American company in the security space. As part of the selling process, I was asked to deliver a 2-hour workshop with their executive team in both the US and Canada. The topic was The Changing World of Selling. After the 2-hour presentation, the executive team were to decide if I was to garner the contract to develop their senior leadership team, managers, and sales force across the country.

As it turns out the VP Sales was not happy. One of the researched points I spoke about hit home a bit too close. His selling strategy leaned heavily on taking customers out for dinners and drinks and this was a key change that was taking place in sales. Companies were defining new rules and ethics around what their people could accept from a supplier. Consequently, the relationship seller needed to shift their approach and sell value not just lean on the perks they could provide.

I later learned, after I got the contract, that the company recognized they needed to change the approach to relationship selling. Their customers were beginning to complain about their selling style. The CEO knew the VP needed to change as he was part of the problem. The bottom line: their customers wanted to have a business relationship, not a buddy, they wanted to be sure their suppliers were delivering value.

The Lesson

A heavy leaning on a so-called relationship versus being able to have an effective dialogue and create value, is aligned with a lack of advanced communication skills.

Typically the seller is leaning on being buddies as they do not have the skills to ask thought-provoking questions. In many cases even if they were given the questions to ask, and effective examples and stories on how they might create value, they may be afraid to ask them. The sales representative is often more concerned with being liked than creating value for their customer.

The Price Seller

I was coaching a sales representative for a company in an industry that their buyers try to commoditize. Consequently, the modus operandi for the suppliers is to hand a sales rep a sample of their product in the first meeting and ask for a price.

The easy thing to do is take the sample and step right into the price game. And that is exactly what sales representatives who do not have advanced communication skills do.

Of course, there might be times where the right move is to take the sample and quote it, but generally it isn’t the best move.

Why? Well if you like to waste your time and the company’s resources quoting, I guess one might say go ahead. Last time I looked though, sales people are not supposed to be in the quoting business. They are in the business of solving “the” problem or “the” opportunity for their customer.

Sales representatives with advanced communication skills want to create value for both their company and their prospect. To do this I coached them to say something like this: “Thanks I really appreciate the opportunity to quote and would love to do so when the time is right.” They then go on to position that they first want to learn more about what the buyer is looking to accomplish and to see if there is a way they can create value. If and when they determine there are ways they can create value, they would welcome providing a quote.

Properly done, the sales person avoids playing monkey in the middle and going back and forth between his company and the prospect to match or better current pricing. A huge amount of time and resources are wasted quoting when the prospect had not even bought into wanting to work with the rep and his/her company. And, of course, monkey in the middle often ends with the prospect leveraging your price to get a better price from their current supplier.

The Lesson

This is the example of the price seller. They tend, again, to lack the advanced communication skills they need to avoid playing a price game. They are uncomfortable asking the questions and or leveraging the skills to position their company and their unique selling proposition. Ultimately, they are unable to position themselves as a solutions provider.

About Marguerite
Marguerite Zimmerman is CEO of E=mz2 Inc. & Founder of Momentium. Her career has been dedicated to helping sales forces maximize their performance.
How advanced communication skills impact productivity