One of the greatest attributes of a successful Sales Leader is their ability to effectively communicate. To be able to take complex information, and lots of it, and distill it down into a succinct and understandable message that resonates with their team. To also be able to ‘think on their feet’ when challenged by their team with questions and comments that are perhaps off topic. These are skills which are pivotal to their ability to build engagement and to grow the team. And over the last 20 years, I have been fortunate to either work for some of these great sales leaders, or observe the way they go about it. They have built very tight knit teams, and have created a culture which has enabled the team to prosper, grow, deal with challenges and break into new frontiers. They have also experienced very limited attrition and staff turnover, based on their ability to communicate.
By contrast, I have also observed many sales leaders who did not place a high priority on communication and the results within their teams became equally predictable – attrition and staff turnover was high, engagement was low, the concept of ‘team’ almost didn’t exist, and the end result was the sales and revenue results were significantly lower compared to their peers. It was almost as if their team members were trying to succeed in spite of the leader, and literally going it alone. And of course, this is not sustainable.
So as a sales leader, how would you rate your ability to communicate? For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on verbal communication, although many of the key points below also are equally applicable to written communication as well. Is your team engaged and on the same page? Are they crystal clear on what is expected of them? Do they ask insightful and relevant questions and then take affirmative action? If the answer is yes, awesome, keep doing what you are doing. If not, review the following key points and check in to see whether you are focussing on these, and if not, start! Applying these will enable your communication capabilities to significantly increase :
- Preparation is key – there are very few sales leaders who have the ability to ‘wing it’ when it comes to presenting or communicating their message. And even those who do, they have carried out come preparation first. It never ceases to amaze me the number of sales leaders who do next to no preparation, then stand up to deliver a message and wonder why it falls flat or doesn’t hit the mark. Preparation is critical. Remember, the number 1 success principle is to know your outcome, and hence preparation is all about clearly articulating what the outcome of the communication will be. What is it that you want your team to think, feel, and do as a result of this communication? Once you answer this question, you can more easily frame your communication and then look at the next key area, which is understanding your audience.
- Understand your audience – A key part of your communication will be to ensure that it resonates with everyone in your team. To do this, you must understand the type of people you have in the team and how they like to be communicated to. There will be 4 types of people in your team ; 1) those who are simply looking for what’s in it for them, 2) those who are more concerned about the team and how your communication affects others, 3) those who are interested in a great amount of detail, and 4) those who simply want the bottom line. As such, it is critical as part of your preparation to ensure that your message covers all 4 areas, because otherwise, you will miss the mark and you could ‘lose’ their engagement. So make sure you craft your message to cater for the types of people you have in your team, ensuring that you make the information relevant.
- Rehearse your message – I’m continually blown away by the number of sales leaders who do not rehearse their presentations/communications before they deliver it. Their attitude is that if it reads well, it will sound great. The problem with this is often a message sounds fantastic in our head, but when we actually say it, it sounds completely different and often misses the mark. So rehearsal is paramount. All of the great presenters and public speakers rehearse relentlessly prior to delivering the final communication. They believe that you cannot rehearse enough, which I totally agree with. Where rehearsal can be detrimental is when you are rehearsing to simply remember all of the words – doing this will result in the communication sounding scripted, as if you have ‘learned your lines’ – and this will diminish your effectiveness. The point of rehearsing is to allow you to know and understand the content so well that when you deliver it, it sounds like you are having a natural conversation, rather than delivering a ‘speech’.
- Understand that 1st impressions count – depending on the gender of your audience, you only have between 7 and 60 seconds to create a first impression, even if you already know the people. Whether we like it or not, we are constantly being judged, so it is incredibly important to stack the odds in your favour and focus on creating a great 1st impression – dress well, be confident and use positive and engaging facial expressions. And remember this key point – never commence a communication or presentation until you have confirmed that the audience is ready to receive the message. If this is not done, then the message will not necessarily resonate, as the audience’s attention and focus is elsewhere.
- Use empowering body language, powerful eye contact and commanding voice tonality – we know that our communication effectiveness is more about how we communicate compared to the actual communication – in fact, 7% of your impact is through the words you speak (content) and a whopping 93% of the impact is through your voice tonality & energy, as well as your body language. So whilst it is important to know your content, it is even more important to know how to deliver it. As you are delivering your communication, maintain eye contact with your team – not just a fleeting glance and certainly not a ‘death stare’! For many people, maintaining eye contact with each person for around 5 seconds before moving to the next person works well. And remember to capture everyone in the team – no body gets left behind. From a body language perspective, it is critical that you are symmetrical when you are delivering your message, irrespective of whether you are standing or sitting. There is so much to this that it cannot be covered in this article, however, as a starting point, when standing, ensure that your feet are shoulder width apart and parallel to each other, like they are on train tracks. This will allow you to be symmetrical and balanced, because a balanced stance will allow your message to be balanced. And ensure that your shoulders are back and your back is straight. This equally applies when you are sitting down. And when you speak, speak with a confident tone, a tone known as command tonality. If you notice great speakers, when they speak, their voice ever so slightly goes down in tone at the end of a sentence – this is the command tonality, and will result in an increased level of certainty and confidence in your audience.
So remember, as a sales leader, preparation is key to effective sales communication. Understand your audience, rehearse your message, and when it is time to deliver the message, create a great impression, use powerful body language, maintain good eye contact and use command tonality. Do all this and your ability to communicate will skyrocket – you will be unstoppable!!
To your continued sales leadership success.
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Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.