Riddell: It's not what you say, but how you say it

Riddell: It's not what you say, but how you say it

March 23rd, 2010 by John Riddell Jr. in Business Diary

More effective selling continues to be the best antidote for this terrible malaise known as the Great Recession.

At it basic level, "more effective selling" is simply obtaining more knowledge and then applying it. Given the ever-changing dynamics of modern business, this pursuit never ends and, much like golf, therein resides the attractiveness of the selling profession. Too often this quest for "more knowledge" is focused on product or industry specifics, a stockpiling of facts and figures all guaranteed to counter the best of objections. Sales professionals, however, know that real effectiveness is not just in what you know but also in how you say it.

Let's do a little thought experiment. Have you ever purchased anything from a salesperson you could not understand? Assuming you do not speak Swahili, have you or would you ever purchase any product or service from someone, albeit steeped in facts and figures, who made his or her presentation to you only in the Swahili language? Most of us, of course, would answer "No."

No self-respecting salesperson would knowingly engage in a sales presentation with a potential customer while speaking a language that the customer could not understand. Yet day in and day out, well-intentioned but untrained amateurs attempt to do exactly this.

Whether the focus is on dialects, accents or recognizable patterns, communication experts have identified certain traits that dominate all of our verbal communications. Inherent in these traits is a zone of comfort which significantly enhances the probability of a successful verbal transmission and reception of an idea or statement. Much like our unfortunate salesperson with Swahili, conversations pursued at polar opposites of the comfort zones of these patterns tend to require a disproportionate amount of listening energy and usually result in very nonproductive communications.

But what if you had the skills to not only recognize the unique pattern preferred by your listener but could also alter your pattern to match his or hers? It just stands to reason that your ability to get across your message significantly improves and could well be the deciding factor in a competitive environment.

Interestingly enough, there are companies and products that are available that to address this challenge. Many are familiar with the DISC profiles, but there are others. At their core, all are aimed at helping the individual learn his preferred pattern(s) and as well as understanding the major components of other patterns. Unfortunately for many, this is where their learning stops when in reality this is where it should begin.

The real professionals know their own "language," can make an educated guess as to the customer's preference, and then consciously modify their pattern to better match that of their customers'.

The most important issue here is recognizing the actual thought process involved in being a better salesperson. Product knowledge is certainly important but if your customer can't understand you, then he or she can never realize the benefits you are offering. Take some time to work on this skill and see if you don't notice an improvement in your results.

John F. Riddell Jr., director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth-Hamilton County, writes every other Tuesday about entrepreneurs and their impact on companies and the marketplace. Submit comments to his attention by writing to Business Editor John Vass Jr., Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at business@timesfreepress.com.