Is there anything more important in sales than being able to effectively communicate?  I dare say no – it is a crucial skill for any sales or sales leadership role. 

This Entrepreneur article states that 55% of communication is nonverbal.  I have seen other studies estimating that number to be closer to 90%.  Either way, you get the idea – words are the smaller part of the communication equation.  Salespeople must have the ability to pick up on the subtle “tells” that prospects unknowingly share.

The first step in improving your communication abilities is to know yourself.  A communication style assessment is a good first step at understanding your natural preferences for interacting with others.

The next step would be to incorporate the tips from the aforementioned article.  There are a handful of tips that standout from the others.

1. Learn the basics of nonverbal communication.

One study found that nonverbal communication accounted for 55 percent of how an audience perceived a presenter. That means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through physical cues.

To communicate clearly and confidently, adopt proper posture. Avoid slouching, folding your arms or making yourself appear smaller than you are. Instead, fill up the space you are given, maintain eye contact and (if appropriate) move around the space.

At the risk of sounding robotic, you can learn to read other people.  Granted, there are some styles that are naturally inclined to success in this area.  However, even the styles that are not people-focused (I’m looking at you High C’s) can learn enough tricks to gain an understanding of nonverbal communication.

9. Master the art of timing.

While some of their jokes might not be appropriate for the workplace, standup comedians are certainly effective communicators. Comedians including Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle are able to host compelling 90-minute comedy shows, in part because they have mastered the art of timing.

Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.

The reference to comedians is appropriate as their timing, when communicating, is of the utmost value.  The same is true in sales – we assess for this aptitude in our assessments.  A salesperson with a low sense of timing will be awkward and clumsy in important qualifying situations.

14. Be a listener.

“Listen more than you talk.” This is what Richard Branson tells business people who want to connect with others. To communicate effectively, first listen to what others have to say. Then you can provide a thoughtful answer that shows you have taken those ideas into account.

I know, the listening bit is almost cliche now.  Yet, it is still a skill in great demand for salespeople.  We assess for this ability, also.  The conventional wisdom is that strong salespeople are good talkers…not necessarily true.  Great sales communicators are great at two distinct skills – listening and questioning.  These are the skills that drive the top performers.

If you need help with any communication topics in your hiring process or with your existing team, we would welcome the chance to help implement these tips.

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