5 Myths About Sales Communication
In today’s always connected world where communication forms celebrate the abbreviated I often see poor communication or lack of shared understanding derail the sales process. I do not expect everyone to be an English major or a communication expert, but language itself is an area where I encourage sales professionals to question all of their assumptions and, more importantly, the assumptions of prospects, when it comes to reaching a shared understanding.
In the ValueSelling methodology I employ with teams there is a step in the process called “the plan letter” which essentially means that after each conversation with a customer or prospect, an email should be drafted that summarizes what was said and reiterates the agreed upon next steps. This gives the recipient the ability to clarify understandings and to acknowledge and agree the Account Manager’s understanding is correct.
Over the years it has proven to be an invaluable tool for me…not only in sales but in relationships in general (although sometimes the wife doesn’t relish getting an email or sticky note going over what we just discussed). As a result of the time and energy focused on these letters or emails throughout the process, the need to understand language and effective communication is an essential part of the Account Manager’s (and I would argue, any professional’s) responsibilities.
But language is a challenge and there are five things to keep in mind when interacting in a professional environment in general.
Myth #1: Terminology and Titles Don’t Matter:
Respect the professions you interact with on a regular basis. References to the Account Managers or sales executives as “the sales guys” demonstrates (intentionally or not) a companies understanding and respect for what it means to execute effective consultative selling. Referring to executives in general as anything other than their title also creates a sense internally and externally that respect is a rare commodity. Support Engineers, Marketing Managers, Technical Account Managers, Developers…the list of ways to refer to these professions other than with their titles is long. Internally such terms can be meant in an endearing way. Just remember, a customer or prospect is not stupid – if you don’t demonstrate respect for the professionals in your organization, why should they?
Myth #2: Personal Conversations Are a Waste of Time:
People buy from people. Period. In order to demonstrate and prove Account Managers are people rather than the stereotypical “slick and quick”, they need to demonstrate a general interest in their contacts as people rather than targets. Not only does this inform the sales process but it creates a long-term relationship that will be mutually beneficial to all involved, including the company. The “Conscious Competent” Account Manager knows and works to connect with people on a personal level, because in the end, logical decisions can be made for emotional reasons.
Myth #3: Account Managers Should Sell, Not Listen:
This may be an obvious one, but too often I have been asked why I spend so much time probing companies about their business. Sales is not just about pushing product or services, it is about solving problems. In order to demonstrate a solution, one must first understand the problem. Conversations with decision makers are often just one facet of the problem and each individual will have a different perspective. Executive Admins often have the best perspective, but there is no excuse for not understanding the prospect company’s business model and market challenges. Speaking from a perspective of understanding and demonstrating a deep awareness of the company’s challenges comes from listening closing, researching the company and fostering understanding and acceptance…all which require a well-honed ability to listen.
Myth #4: The Message Isn’t Important, Just Results:
Account Managers have a quota. Their lively hood depends on their ability to generate revenue. Yet believing this is the only measure of success is short sited. Relationships are based on developing mutual trust and this means being honest with people. A prospect may not be a fit for solutions available to the Account Manager now, but no doubt they will know someone who has a need. Communicating an “elevator pitch” that is easy to remember allows contacts to spread the word without misconstruing what is possible. This is where marketing comes in. The company has a brand, a message, an identity and Account Managers need to understand this intimately. Once they leave a prospect office, the message lives on and if it is not communicated succinctly and accurately, their network will get the wrong impression which can lengthen sales cycles or derail other opportunities.
Myth #5: Sing It From the Mountains, We Can Do Anything:
No company, regardless of industry, vertical or approach can do anything. The ‘jack of all trades” approach lays the foundation for a commodity view of a company’s offerings. If you can do anything, then the perceived value to the prospect decreases. Honestly discussing what your company can provide and admitting when the offering falls short of the prospects need is often an important part of the sales process. But don’t stop there, continue to help them solve their problem with introductions to other contacts. Companies build businesses on executing a core competency. Proclaiming your company can solve any problem can leave the prospect with little understanding of when and why they should call you.
Communication is a challenge not just in marketing and sales but in everyday life. But as flawed as it may be, conversations with other people is the best tool we have for moving companies from facing problems to applauding solutions. There are times to choose your words carefully, times to be more casual and times to listen intently. Knowing the difference is part of any competent Account Manager’s arsenal of tools. The same is true of marketing professionals as well. Throwing words around, stumbling through conversations and lack of understanding of your core messages can derail new business and create an impression difficult to overcome. So choose carefully, because what you say and how you say it says more about you and your company than trying to say what you think others want to hear.
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