Tag Archives: how to communicate

Questions are Often the Answer

questionmarkwordsPeople have a tendency to think about good communication in terms of speaking, but when it comes to sales, business development or sales management, questions are often the key to success.

Consider that in most conversations [interviews, debates, sales calls, performance reviews…] the person asking the questions is the one who controls the conversation.

In addition, if we ask better questions we will get better answers; and because of these answers we will be equipped with better information, which will enable us to make better suggestions, craft more compelling value propositions, or make more interesting presentations.

Similar perspective has been made by Jack Falvey, founder of makingthenumbers.com, who said, “Asking the best question has always been more important than making the best presentations.”

Or as stated by Paul Sloane, founder of Destination Innovation, “Asking questions is the single most important habit for innovative thinkers.”

Be Prepared With a New Focus
If this perspective resonates with you, or if you’d like to put it to the test, make this simple adjustment when preparing for your next sales call, meeting, important telephone conversation, or presentation:

  • Put an equal amount of effort into planning what you will “say” as well as what you will “ask.”

In other words, put the same amount of focus on your questions as you put on your speaking points.

 

Avoid Two Levels of Miscommunication & the FUD Factor

fudWhether you are a sales manager, sales professional. business executive, or business owner, miscommunication can be a costly occurrence.

While the Merriam Webster dictionary defines the term as a “failure to communicate clearly,”  the causes of miscommunication can vary significantly:

  • Lack of forethought or preparation
  • Poor verbal skills or word choice
  • Misaligned voice tone
  • Poor body language
  • Intentional deceit on the part of the sender
  • Lack of comprehension, poor listening skills or distraction on the part of the receiver

Experts and behaviorists have also suggested that miscommunication is also the primary contributing factor to conflict, as when unsure about the actual meaning of inbound communication, people tend to fear the worst outcome.

“In miscommunication the mind will fill in missing information with its own creative insight,” said author and conflict resolution consultant Tristan Loo.

Loo goes on to explain that these reactions tend to be fear-based, and that we satisfy our need for answers with that of assumption. Once we lock-into our assumptions the tendency is to believe them as truth, thus resulting in conflict.

The Solutions – Trial Closing & Thought Leadership
In the selling world, a great deal is lost to misunderstanding, predisposition (many decision-makers are predisposed to mistrust sales people), and conflict. While buyers tend to buy from people they like and trust, miscommunication, as noted above, breeds uncertainty, conflict and distrust.

Sales professionals can bridge this gap through the increased use of clarifying or “trial closing” questions, which by design are tests of accurate understanding and receptivity.   These simple questions, such as, “How does that sound so far?” can be used effectively during need assessments, business meetings, sales calls and presentations. Unlike “closing” questions which are designed to gain commitments, “trial closing” questions are simply designed to seek opinions.

For managers and leaders, a good way to avoid miscommunication and the “FUD” factor (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that frequently accompanies misunderstandings and misconceptions is to proactively engage in “thought leadership.”

In other words, as a standard component of team meetings, performance reviews, coaching sessions, and all forms of workforce-directed communication, leaders can eliminate miscommunication by consistently making an effort to keep people thinking about and focused on the right things.

This might involve the following steps:

  1. Anticipate potential areas of misunderstanding, especially when communicating about potentially-delicate issues such as policy changes, compensation, strategic plans, etc.
  2. Proactively confirm the team’s interpretation and level of buy-in by using the same “trial closing” questions as tests of understanding and receptivity, as noted above
  3. Regularly reinforce important messages through repetition, providing examples, and positively recognizing the right behaviors