I guess I have been watching too much David Letterman with his famous top ten lists. However, the purpose of his lists are to create humor and laughing. My list of Top Ten Communication Issues for b2b sales people is of serious concern.
Often when traveling with a b2b sales person and being an observer of the sales process I have seen the Good the Bad and the Ugly of Communication with customers. GEEZ! It really is not that hard or difficult to gain rapport with customers and have great communication.
However, the difference between bad communication and good communication is due to the choices made by the sales person. That is correct. The B2B Sales Person is the key to the Communication Success of their customer relationships.
You can begin your journey to successful and effective communication by knowing what causes poor communication and eliminating as many of the causes as possible. So let’s begin with the Top Ten List of Communication Issues or Barriers…
Top Ten Reasons for Poor Listening in Communication
- Poor Listening Skills
Total lack of desire to listen to the customer. This can be driven by fear or ignorance to the need to actually listen more and speak less.
- Not Realizing there are Multiple Speaking Styles
One of the biggest issues with sales people – not understanding the need for knowing the different styles. This includes basic understanding of behavioral styles and the advanced understanding of how a person thinks and develops a decision strategy based upon personal preferences. All of these can be learned, once you know you need it to be totally successful.
- No Defined Purpose
Recently observed several b2b sales people just stop by – unannounced – to visit a customer and in some cases a prospect. GEEZ! It was a total waste of time at every call, since there was no specific purpose in mind for the sales person and no desire to visit a sales person by the customer. And, the sales person would write up the call report as building customer relationship. BS! It was a lazy way to check off a customer visit. Always have a agenda with an explicit purpose for the customer and homework for you – the sales person – to prepare for the visit.
- No Outcome in Mind
This is the outcome of the “wing-it” group of sales people. Again, they have no purpose other than to attempt to create a happening. Usually the happening is disrespect on the part of the customer. Have a planned outcome or advance to the sales process in mind before the call.
- Lack of Common Ground to begin
No common ground or rapport building to create a neutral setting for the sales call to continue. Take time to find some common ground to build some rapport early in the process. Yet, don’t force it, make the action authentic and natural or the customer will see it as a manipulative activity.
- Resistance – known or unknown
Usually this is on the part of the customer, yet, I have seen sales people form opinions about the buyer and actually create their own resistance due to disrespect or a pushy attitude. Most often resistance is coming from the customer. Take time to ask if something has come up that is causing some stress for the customer. If so reschedule since they will not be listening to you anyway. The other common resistance is due to a previous bad experience with you or your company. Here is best to have the customer vent, showing empathy and understanding while showing no defensiveness on your part. Allowing the customer to vent reduces their stress and resistance to your visit. Then the air will clear and an objective dialogue can begin.
- Opinionated with a Desire to be Right in all cases
Here is the know it all syndrome. Just yesterday I heard a customer talk about a pushy sales person who felt they had all the answers and know exactly what to do. The individual telling me the story then stated – “it was if my thoughts were of no value to this individual, it was all about them showing me what was right, in their opinion.”
- Interrupting Your Customer
Learn to keep your mouth closed until the customer is finished. Interrupting is both rude and disrespectful. Plus, it shows you believe your opinion is more important than their opinion. Just listen and wait. If you feel you will lose an important though just jot down a phrase or two for later. Sometimes, when you wait, you will actually hear the customer tell you – the same thing you were about to say! Remember, you have two ears and one mouth, use their to the same percentage.
- Talking Too Much
The curse of most outgoing and aggressive b2b sales people is they really want to talk a lot. If you are talking then the customer is not, thereby you are learning nothing about the customer’s situation. Here is the advantage of using the questioning model of b2b selling, it forces you to ask a question and listen to the answer. By the way, their are two additional negative reasons a person talks too much – their scared and unprepared, or they have really low self-esteem attempting to show how valuable they are to others. Stop talking and start listening then your communication effectiveness will improve.
- Finishing the Customer’s thoughts and sentences
The ultimate sign of disrespect for the customer. It is just plain rude to interrupt a person who is telling you things. It is also the major reason many sales people get branded as being arrogant. Arrogance will get you no where with customers except a permanent lockout to access with the customer.
Okay, there you have the Terrible Top Ten of Poor Listening Skills impacting your effectiveness in communication.
Review the above list and be honest in your evaluation of your actions relative to the items listed. It is your choice to continue using any of the items on the list, or finding ways to reduce their impact upon your b2b sales success.