Did I grab your attention with the title? I hope so, because I want talk with you about how to get a prospect’s attention. First, I would kindly ask that you put your phones on silent for the next five minutes. Done? Good. Are you in public, at work, or maybe around your family right now? No matter where you are, stop and look at the world around you. How many people are scrolling away at their devices? More and more, in-person communication is becoming a rare practice—even in the world of sales. People have taken to texting, emailing, and working their social media and Linked-in profiles so much that the good old-fashioned sit-down with a potential client has fallen by the wayside.
I don’t care how good you are with a keyboard; if you’re trying to sell something, you may struggle to make a meaningful sale with an email. If you want to make a true impact with a prospect, a phone call doesn’t always cut it either. You’ve got to schedule time with your prospects and sit down across from them. Don’t get me wrong—emails, texts, and social media all have their place in modern sales practices, but our focus right now is on face-to-face communication.
I see opportunity for salespeople in the digital era. As more and more people communicate by email, text, social media, and make instant messaging the norm, who’s going to close sales deals? Who’s going to lead? Who’s going to walk into the office of a decision-maker, look him/her in the face, and forge the kind of relationship it takes to make a sale or get a project moving? I’ll tell you who; it’ll be the communicators. The communicators who will lead us can shake your hand, look you in the eye, and carry on a personable conversation. This person will be able to talk to both full-blown IT guys and everyone else.
The importance of good communication skills is nothing new. I’ll share my story as an example. As I young salesman, I had brief stint selling knives—which, thankfully, nobody needs to sell door-to-door anymore. I wasn’t doing all that well in the world of cutlery and was feeling the pressure to make more money to support my young family. So, I took an afternoon off, went into the local Chevy house, and asked for a job. After talking to the sales manager for a couple of minutes, I’d sold him on the idea of hiring me on. He even had the owner of the dealership come out from the back office to meet me personally.
“This is Michael Newman,” he told his employer. “He’s going to do great here.”
With my enthusiasm and my ability to communicate, I’d sold this sales manager on the prospect of my ability to sell. I was all but hired. There was just one formality left: the non-verbal portion of the interview. Suddenly I was a second grader with dyslexia all over again as I flashbacked to my teacher, Miss Ridley, who told me I was dumb as a box of rocks. I slumped in my chair as I was sure that taking a written test would break me. But I wanted the job, so I grabbed the papers and started on the exam. As the afternoon turned into evening, it was taking me so long to finish that I figured the manager was thinking there must be something wrong with me, so I panicked and hurried through the second half of it.
Sure enough, when I went in the next day, the sales manager—the man who had been enthusiastic about hiring me the day before — didn’t even come out to see me to tell me I didn’t get the job.
Thank goodness for that test. I mean that with all my heart. I walked away from that dealership with one of the greatest revelations of my life. When it comes to sales, the ability to speak to a person face to face is far more important than anything you could ever write down. That rejection was a huge turning point for me, career-wise. I used it as motivation to succeed at the opportunity I already had. I made it a point from that day forward to always lean on my face-to-face communication skills. I knew that if I could make my charisma in the meeting work for me, I would go far in sales and in life.
A final note about communication. You want know why email or the phone doesn’t always cut it? 80% of communication is nonverbal. When you’re not face to face, you’re only using 20% of your ability. Knowing that, how can you feel like you’re doing everything you can possibly do to make a sale when you’re not in front of the prospect? If you ever get the opportunity to meet with a prospect or customer, you have to take it.
So keep that in mind for now. And in the next installment, we’ll talk about the communication techniques that always work for me, and will work for you, too.
-Michael Ray Newman