Business isn’t all about the numbers, metrics, and analytical data.
The communication skills you have when interacting with your clients or potential clients can have a significant impact on your annual revenue goals. When your objective is to increase business sales, it’s vital that you consider how effective your communication skills are.
The definition of communication according to the BusinessDictionary.com is a “two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange information…but also create and share meaning. In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places.”
In sales, your communication skills are what move your clients from no to maybe to yes. They are what clear their confusion. They are what helps them bypass internal objections. They are what helps them decide to pay the invoice and sign the contract.
Improving your communication skills takes practice, but the more you do it, the more natural you become. Read on to find 6 steps you can take to improve your communication skills and increase your business sales.
Listening is a challenging practice for many because we often don’t listen to understand; instead, we prepare our response. Being an active listener encourages you to focus on what your potential client is saying. It gives them the sense that you’re interested in the conversation and boosts rapport.
These 3 steps can help you be a better listener and improve communication skills.
Give your client your undivided attention. Don’t get distracted by your thoughts. Don’t allow your environment to cause interference. Don’t prepare your response while listening. Instead, acknowledge what is being said and make your potential client feel like they have your full attention because they should.
Your body language indicates to your client how much you’re listening. Show you’re paying attention to what’s being said by using both verbal and nonverbal cues. Non-verbal gestures include nodding your head and smiling. Verbal cues include saying “uh huh” and “okay.” When giving verbal cues, be sure not to interrupt your client. At this stage in the conversation, your goal is only to make your client feel heard.
When communicating, it is okay to reiterate what was said or ask for clarification when you’re at the appropriate phase in your conversation. This might include you saying things such as
“What I hear you saying is…”
“Do you mean…when you say…”
“What it sounds like you’re saying is…”
Paying attention is a component of being an active listener; however, it’s worth mentioning again. As stated previously, it’s important to be physically and mentally available during your conversation. This includes ignoring all internal and external distractions.
When you are not paying attention, it’s off-putting to your potential client. It demonstrates that you’re not serious about your conversation. You also appear unprofessional and as if you’re only interested in how the partnership will benefit you. When you’re trying to make a sale, you never want a potential client to have those thoughts about you.
Professor Albert Mehrabian, current UCLA professor, came to the now famous conclusion that communication is 7% verbal, 55% body language, and 38% voice tone. When you’re engaged in a conversation, pay close attention to the body language of the person you’re speaking with. Body language is displayed in a variety of ways including
In some instances, it’s best to improve your communication skills by mirroring the body language and tone of whom you’re speaking to. If their tone is formal, make sure yours is as well. If they smile, you smile also. This strategy should be done naturally so as not appear to be a mime. When you mimic their body language correctly, it often makes them feel more comfortable with you and like your conversation is going well.
Honesty is a sales technique that doesn’t often come to mind. Just because you’re in the position to sell something, it doesn’t mean you have to reduce your moral capacity to that of a sleazy used car salesman. Be upfront about what you know and don’t know. Be honest about what your product or service can provide. Be forthcoming with the results of your product or service. If you come across as dishonest, it will significantly decrease the likelihood that a sale will transpire from the conversation, and your potential client will be unlikely to speak highly of you or your firm to others.
When you’re trying to get a potential client to purchase your product or service, you are charged with being the expert about that product or service. You should know the ins and outs of what you’re selling. Be aware of the benefits and what type of client it best suits. Know the typical objections people have to the purchase of the product or service and have a rebuttal ready for any doubts. Also, know what people love about what you’re selling. Having this knowledge will help you have a conversation beyond mere facts and figures. Being knowledgeable builds the know, like, and trust factor you have with your potential client.
When involved in a sales call or meeting, your goal is to listen actively to your potential client and showcase how your product or service can be a solution to their problem. Always discover what their problem is and take the role of a problem solver. In business, people generally make purchases to serve as solutions. If you can adequately communicate how what you’re selling solves their problem, you’ve won half the battle.
When you’re working to make a sale remember that you’re speaking to a human being, not a business. It’s acceptable to behave in a personable manner. It’s okay to have a goal based conversation without it feeling sleazy and sales-y. People buy from those whom they know, like, and trust. Help your potential clients know you, like you and trust you, so they feel comfortable signing the contract and paying the invoice.
Developing excellent communication skills shouldn’t just be geared toward one person in your business. This concept should be shared amongst everyone from the top down. Increasing employee engagement so they are actively committed to improving communication skills is the way to go. Whether you have a team of 5 or 50, you can download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement here. You will find tons of actionable strategies you can implement to ensure your entire team is engaged and ready to improve communication skills.
On Wednesday the Federal Reserve lifted its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point. For those not paying attention to monetary policy, this is the second hike this year.
As a small business owner or even a solopreneur paying attention to what the Fed does with rates is important to your bottom line. The state of the economy as well as interest rates can have a direct effect on your expenses, the pool of potential employees, employee retention, and a host of other things in your business.
As the economy has continually improved Fed officials have been split about whether to raise rates three times or four times this year. The consensus seems to be coalescing around the likelihood of four rate hikes in 2018.
The premise behind the rate hikes is an attempt by the Fed to keep the economy from overheating.
With unemployment at 3.8%, the lowest since 2000, and predictions of a drop to 3.6% going forward, rising inflation is a real risk.
“The main takeaway is that the economy is doing very well,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a news conference. “Most people who want to find jobs are finding them, and unemployment and inflation are low.”
Let’s look at some of the ways this rate hike can impact you directly.
Higher borrowing costs
The Fed lifted the federal funds rate, which helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards and other borrowing, to a range of 1.75% to 2%.
A higher rate makes it more expensive for banks to borrow money, which can translate into higher borrowing rates for consumers. The cost of higher rates for consumers can translate into less disposable income. It also means increased costs for your lines of credit, credit cards, and any variable rate debt you may have. Paying higher interest rates cuts right to the bottom line.
The Fed’s decision Wednesday was driven by “indications that inflation is right around the corner,” said Jason Reed, an economist and finance professor at the University of Notre Dame’s business school.
The long economic recovery has seen mysteriously low levels of inflation. But it has finally passed 2%, the level the Fed considers healthy.
It’s important to note that the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, which strips out food and energy prices, climbed to 2.2% in May. This was the biggest registered annual jump in six years.
An ever-improving economy
The Feds recently offered an improved forecast for unemployment this year, lowering their forecast to 3.6%. They forecast an even lower unemployment rate of 3.5% for 2019 and 2020.
For seven and a half years, employers have added jobs every month, a record. And for the first time in at least 20 years, there are more job openings in the United States than there are people looking for work. The biggest puzzle in all this is the continued stagnation of wages.
Low unemployment seems like a good thing at first glance. But as small business owners this can hamper recruitment efforts. In order to attract quality candidates you may have to offer higher wages. The other risk is a complete lack of qualified candidates all together. Lack of qualified candidates can lessen your ability to grow and/or service your existing customer base.
Don’t get me wrong; the sky isn’t falling in on us. A strong economy is generally good news for all of us. As small business owners, we just need to be aware of the risks and fluctuations in the economy so we can manage our ship accordingly.
I encourage you to tune into what’s going on and adjust your financial forecasts accordingly. Fed Chair Powell announced that he plans to hold press conferences eight times a year, up from the current four.
Ensure that you are investing in your employee engagement efforts, building strong leaders, effective communicators, and redo your SWOT analysis to adjust for any potential threats to your industry based on rising interest rates and a tight labor force. If your strategic plans are more than a year old, it’s time to dust it off and examine your action plans.
A very dear friend reached out to tell me she was hosting a 14-Day Examine Your Why Challenge. I graciously accepted the challenge. Truth be told, this challenge came at a very good time for me. You see, I’ve fallen off the “why wagon”. My poor blog has been neglected. I have been suffering from shiny object syndrome. Running from here to there, trying to be everything to every one and I lost sight of my mission. Has this ever happened to you?
Little did I know that when I accepted my friends challenge, it would be more than just examining my “why”. I felt called to begin writing on my blog again. Day 1 already has me thankful that I decided to examine my “why”. Here are some thoughts that came out of my time of reflection:
What are the 3 biggest barriers keeping you from reaching your ultimate dream?
I took a while to reflect on this. Here’s what I came up with.
I appreciate this challenge for giving me the kick in the pants I need to get back on track. I’m excited to see what the next 2 weeks brings. Have you been lacking focus? Do you need a kick in the pants? Let us know what you do when you’ve fallen off the “why wagon”.