Each year tens of thousands of organizations fail. One of the contributing factors often cited is poor communication. Your sales team is the tip of the spear for your organization. Its success or failure determines whether or not your organization is going to be around next year. As a sales manager, you have to deliver clear and crisp messages that are believed by your sales team. Your clarity and confidence as a sales leader is the catalyst that ignites the passion and drive within your sales force. Do this poorly and you will douse any inspiration until complacency contaminates your team.
Here are seven ways you can use to improve the power of your communications.
1. Plan it Out
People that are at the top of any profession make it look so easy. The reality is they spent countless hours rehearsing and practicing to get good. They take the time to plan every event they undertake. After each event they compare the results they got against the plan. They make the needed adjustments so they continually improve. This is how they become great!
As a sales manager, you have to plan every interaction with your team members. You have to ask yourself, What is the end result I’m looking for? How will I know my salesperson truly got the message? How do I need to deliver the message so each salesperson knows what’s expected of them? Taking 5 to 10 minutes to plan your interaction can save you countless hours if the communication you want to deliver doesn’t get through.
2. Get To The Point
There simply isn’t enough time to get everything done. Additionally, there are 10,000 distractions that get in the way of you doing your job. This means that we do not have the luxury to take a lot of time to hold lengthy meetings. We need to clearly concise to powerfully get our point across.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “you buried the lead”? In plain English what this means is that the most important element of your message is not front and center. It would be like someone telling you what’s on the menu for dinner tonight before they tell you the Titanic has hit the iceberg and if you don’t get on a lifeboat soon you’re going to die. Tell your salespeople the most important information right out of the gate. This will accomplish two things; it will immediately get their attention and ensure they truly understand the most critical element of your communication.
3. Listen Up
One of the biggest complaints that salespeople have is that their sales managers don’t really listen to them. A critical element of leadership is the trust between the leader and follower. Not listening to people is an excellent way for them to lose faith in you. The lower the trust the poor the performance your team will deliver.
Your brain has the power to process a huge amount of information. The reason listening is such a common problem is a matter of neurology. It turns out that the average person speaks at about 120 words a minute which does not give your brain enough to do. Your brain starts thinking about what you’re going to say next or what movie you want to see this weekend, to keep yourself from getting bored. One way to stay focused on what the other person is saying is to repeat what they are say inside your mind.
For example, if the salesperson says, “they will need their samples in two weeks” you repeat that phrase inside your head a moment later. There is an old joke that speaks to this. Why did God create fleas? To give dogs something to do. Repeating gives your brain something to do so you really listen. When you use this strategy your salespeople will feel that you are totally focused on them.
Another critical element of leadership is confidence. Even if what you’re saying is compelling if you’re not confident in delivering it, your sales team won’t believe much less commit to it. Conversely, if your plan of attack may be wishful thinking as long as you deliver it in a confident way your team will storm any castle for you.
This is why the first tip in this article was to plan your communication. The plan becomes your road map for the entire conversation. It shows you what to do if the conversation goes wrong and how to get it back on track. You know what you want to say and you know how you want to say it. To amp-up your confidence use a strong voice and slow down your presentation by 20%. This combination of voice and slower delivery conveys power and confidence to your sales team. If you believe, they will too.
5. Body Language
I’m sure you have come across this chart before. When you communicate with another the words you use are only 7% of the message. The other 93% are a combination of your body language and the tonality of your voice. When you communicate with your salespeople, pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. These indicators reveal if the message is getting across and how well your people are receiving it.
As you get to know each member of your sales team, pay attention to the mannerisms and how their voice sounds under normal circumstances. This is the baseline you can use for comparison. In your future meetings when you share new expectations or demands notice how they mannerisms and voice patterns differ from the baseline. Their body language and tonality will let you know if your salespeople have doubts or are fully committed to making your plans a reality.
6. Only You
I never met the man but people say that President Bill Clinton could make you feel like you were the only person in the entire world. Even people that didn’t like him wanted to do his bidding after an interaction like that. People want to be seen as special but know deep down that they probably are not. When you can create this level of connection with your salespeople they will walk over broken glass to accomplish the goals you set out before them.
The President’s secret weapon is rapport, a skill that most people learn but hardly ever use. As a sales manager, you must strive to build up a strong rapport with all of your salespeople. The easiest way to build rapport is to match the speed and volume of your salesperson’s voice. Pay attention to their word choice and use similar words in your interactions with them. Pay attention to their mannerisms and incorporate those when you communicate with them. These techniques connect you with your salespeople at a unconscious level that makes them feel like they are the most important person in the world.
7. The Power Of Story
In ancient times, before the written word, people used stories to communicate important ideas. People forget data almost immediately but can recall an interesting story decades after hearing it just once. This is how our species survived. Generation after generation, story relayed critical knowledge about survival. In schools, we still teach our kids Greek mythology because those ancient stories still apply. Our DNA hardwires stories into our brains, as a way of remembering information.
As a sales manager, you need to collect stories about success and failure within your organization. The stories become the folklore of your organization. For example, if you tell a new sales rep that they need to go above and beyond the call of duty it is almost meaningless. On the other hand, if you make the same point but tell them a story about another sales rep within your organization who drove all night to get a client the exact part they needed so the production line wouldn’t shut down. Now that’s a concept that the new sales rep fully understands and will never forget it.
In sales there are so many uncertainties that can get in the way of your team success; missed deadlines from your manufacturing department, shipping issues, revoking of credit terms by your finance department or deep discounts offered by your competitors. All of these types of issues are out of your control.
You solely determine how you communicate with your sales team. The stronger and clearer your communications are the better your team will function. When you consistently communicate in a highly effective manner the trust your team has for you gets stronger. Trust is great in good times but is critical in challenging times.