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Communicate Like a Pro ...And Win More Sales
By Arnold Sanow

Being effective at communication is something that is not only nice to know but essential to your ultimate success. In fact, only 15% of your success in life will be due to your technical skills, while 85% will be due to your presentation and communication skills. 

The bottom line is that communication is the foundation for everything you do .... and the better you are at such things as listening, speaking, and overall communicating the greater your chances are for success in your work and personal life. 

This is especially true in the area of sales. The main difference between those who merely survive and those who thrive boils down to their ability to communicate.

Here we will focus on the communication ingredients you must have to give yourself the competitive edge for today and the future.


The #1 complaint by purchasing agents and professional buyers is that many sales people simply do not listen .... they are too busy talking. Too many times we go in to visit a prospect and focus in on our "sales pitch" without really hearing what the potential customer really wants. In fact, the greater amount of time that we spend talking the less chance we will have to close the sale. By listening you not only become more trustworthy and likable in the eyes of the customer you also hear what the customer really wants. So while you become more popular you also learn and earn more. To become an active listener follow these golden rules.

Limit your own talking.  You have two ears and one mouth. The more you listen the more opportunity you'll have to find out what the customer really wants and then make the sale.

Don't just hear what you want to hear.  Did you ever hear the question, "How many animals of each species did Moses take aboard the ark with him during the great flood?" Well if your answer is two, think again! The real answer is zero. It wasn't Moses but Noah. This situation is known as selective perception, where we hear what we want to hear. And the problem is we jump to conclusions from our past knowledge and our eagerness to talk.

Don't interrupt.  By interrupting the client sensitivity, rapport and commitment are all killed. Although many times it seems expedient to interrupt, this perceived lack of respect for the prospect tends to help deteriorate the relationship and makes it that much harder to close the sale.

Notice nonverbal communication.  What are the hidden meanings and feelings the person is really trying to tell you. You must be sensitive to the hidden meanings the person is telling you. For example, if you're talking to a prospect and they start doing things like, crossing their arms, crossing their legs away from you, yawning, leaning back, looking bored or avoiding eye contact, it could mean something as simple as they are cold or it could mean that they disagree with you, they're bored, they feel uncomfortable or they are angry. When you spot these signs the worse thing you can do is to keep using the same verbal approach. You might want to do such things as change the speed of your conversation, ask questions, ask them if something is bothering them, or try talking about something else. To be a successful communicator you must pay attention to the total communication the person is saying and not only the words at they use. 

Concentrate on the other person.  One of the most flattering things you can do is pay attention to person you are talking to. It makes them feel important ... and they will like you even more. To make sure you do concentrate focus on ideas instead of looks, keep your eyes on the other person ... don't look around and don't keep thinking only about what you are going to talk about next.

Talk to your client in a conducive setting.  Make sure there are no distractions. People will focus on the distraction and not the substance of your presentation. Is it too hot? Too cool? Is the phone ringing all the time? Are there other people around? Is there loud music? Also you could be a distraction.  One of my clients admitted to me one time that he didn't really listen to me because I left a laundry tag on my shirt,  and he kept wondering what it was?

Don't rush the other person.  One of the biggest mistakes sales people make is rushing to try to close the sale. Many times by listening and then talking only when there is a natural break the prospect will sell themselves.


One of the side effects of poor listening is the potential for misunderstandings. Misunderstandings cause tension, lack of trust, poor relationships and the bottom line .... loss of business. How many times have you got into an disagreement with a client over what was said? How many times are you thinking to yourself I know I told them that. The problem is not 'what did you tell them', but  'what did they understand that you told them'. How you say something, the tone of your voice, your body language, the words that you use all convey more about the intention of your message than any words that you can say. For example, only 7% of the message that you send out is conveyed by the words that you use, the other 38% is by your tone of voice and the other 55% is from your body language. So if I'm speaking at a meeting and I say in a low voice with my arms crossed, "I'm really happy to be here", the audience is picking up my body language and tone of voice to say "no he isn't, he just wants to get out of here". 

Although the words you use account for only 7% of the message that is perceived, they are still important. In fact, there are over 600 words in the English language with 10 or more meanings. For example, I recently had a misunderstanding with a client of mine because we both perceived different meanings for a word. The client asked me to design a notebook for a seminar I was going to deliver. To me a notebook meant providing the client with worksheets ... but the client had a whole different meaning. To them a notebook meant that I would provide them with a bound book. Who was wrong? Nobody ... It's just the fact that we didn't spend time to determine what the client meant by "notebook". So instead of saying, "Do you understand?", my concern is what did they understand? To elaborate further, I picked up some quotes from accident reports submitted to various insurance companies. You tell me what you think these mean. 

"I thought my window was down, but found it was up when I put my hand through it." 

" I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident."

" An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle and vanished."

" The pedestrian had no idea which direction to run, so I ran over him."

I don't know about you, but each of these statements could mean something different to different people. To make sure we avoid misunderstandings, there are two key points I'd like to make. The first is to ask questions. By asking questions we can test for understanding. The second strategy is to paraphrase the point by saying, "I just want to make sure I got the message correctly, could I please repeat what you said back." By doing this we make sure there are no misunderstandings. It's not what you say, but how you say it. To make sure we avoid misunderstandings and show ourselves in the best possible light, it's important that we develop effective presentation skills to make sure we are perceived in a positive manner. To accomplish this task follow these guidelines:

Use good eye contact.  The most important element to establishing good rapport and developing relationships is directly related to good eye contact.
And the more relationships you develop the more sales you will close. The best amount of time to keep your eyes on the client is 3 to 5 seconds, look away and then look back at the client. The two mistakes that salespeople make are too little eye contact and the other mistake is too much. Although eye contact is important do not keep your eyes on anyone for an excessive amount of time. This causes the prospect to become uncomfortable.

.  People would much rather deal with someone who is upbeat and happy than someone who is dull or in a bad mood. In fact, smiling is so important that one of my clients actually put mirrors next to each employee's phone so that they would smile when answering the phone. A simple smile helped this company reduce it's customer complaints. And now when talking to customers the customers picked up that the companies employees were friendly and caring. Another example, involves a hotel chain that requires potential employees to smile at least 5 times in a 5 minute interview. And if you don't do this you will never get a job with this hotel.

Be enthusiastic.  Enthusiasm is contagious. People are more convinced by your enthusiasm than by anything else. Just think, if your not enthusiastic about your product or service no one else will be.

Use humor.  Studies show that people who use humor in their presentations and conversations are perceived to be intelligent. It also makes you more likable. Both of these are essential for success in sales. The other point is that people remember humor six times longer than they remember regular conversation. The key though is when you use humor you need to follow the AT&T rule. This rule states that your humor needs to be appropriate, timely and tasteful.

Use stories and anecdotes.  One of the best ways to win a sale is to use stories in all your communication with your prospects. Use stories and create mental pictures to show how you helped your clients gain, save or accomplish something by using your products or services. The more you can create a picture in someone's mind, the easier it is to persuade him or her to your way of thinking.

Beware of distractions.  Certain things like ring twisting, tapping your pencil and interrupting conversations will take the focus away from you and your message. When meeting with a prospect you should always be asking questions like, Is the meeting room too cold?, too hot?, is it noisy?, are there other people around?, are there distractions in the room such as pictures, panoramic views from the window or is it messy?, or are you distracting the prospect by the way you dress or act? All of these are concerns we must be aware of. We want prospects to focus on the substance of the features and benefits we are offering and not our style.

Speaking of substance the motto for business success now and in the future is, "You are not just closing a sale, but opening a relationship." To build relationships and see your business thrive there are 6 key ingredients we must communicate and display on a daily basis to get customers, keep them and keep them coming back. 

The first thing we must do is be reliable. And the very first thing you must do is determine what reliability means in your business. In other words, what is important in the eyes of your customers? For example, Federal Express is committed to the goal of "no service failures." This means that reliability is defined as delivering all priority packages by 10:30 a.m. the next day. Even though each business will have a different concept of reliability, there are basic rules that relate to every business. Here are the rules of the road that you should follow on a daily basis.

Do what you say you're going to do.
Do it when you say you're going to do it.
Do it right the first time. 
Get it done on time. 
And always remember to under promise and over deliver.

The second key for getting new customers, keeping them and increasing your referrals is to be responsive. Responsiveness means being accessible, available and willing to help customers whenever there is a problem. It also means keeping them informed and providing the services they need as soon as possible. Responsiveness can take many forms, for example many times you can make a sale by just calling someone back. It's amazing how many people are so thrilled that you returned their call, because so many others don't.

The third key ingredient that we must practice on a daily basis is to display trust and likeability. When you look at the bottom line, there are two ultimate reasons why people will work with you. It's because they like you and they trust you. One key thing potential customers look for when dealing with you or your company is do you communicate and express knowledge, trust and confidence about your products or services or is your knowledge on a superficial basis.  Likability is just as important.   According to US News and World Report, "Americans are ruder than ever." Simple kindness and good manners can greatly enhance your opportunity to win new clients, generate more business with the ones you have and increase your referrals.

To develop likability and trust follow the 10 commandments of human relations. They are:

1. Speak to people.  Always act like your the host wherever you are and make everyone feel important. There is nothing so nice as a cheerful personality.

2. Call people by name.  The sweetest music to anyone's ears is the sound of his or her name. Remember peoples names and you'll be the most popular person around.

3. Have humility.  There is something to be learned from every living thing.

4. Be friendly.  People deal with their friends. If you would like to have a friend be one.

5. Be cordial.  Speak and act as if everything you do is a pleasure.

6. Be sincerely interested in others.  As Dale Carnegie says, you can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you. plus when you're interested in them they will become interested in you.

7. Be generous with praise and cautious with criticism.

8. Give your word - keep your promises.
When you say you are going to do something do it ... or your credibility is lost.

9. Be considerate of the feelings of others.

10. Be alert to give service.  What counts most in life is what we do for others.

The key to developing trust and like when it is all said and done is that people buy who you are not what you do. 

The fourth step is to watch your appearance. Have you ever heard, "Don't judge a book by it's cover?"  Well guess what everybody does?  In the first thirty seconds that you meet someone they determine if your competent, trustworthy, no what your talking about and more. Although appearances can be deceiving, customers draw a lot of conclusions about the quality of your products or services on the basis of what they see. Your dress, body language, written materials, office, car and verbal skills account for how you are ultimately judged. For example, one of my clients dressed too casually in meeting one of his prospects and as a result of that first impression he lost the sales opportunity. Another one of my clients sent a follow-up letter to a prospect and it came back to him with corrections on the grammar and the spelling. In addition, the prospect wrote a lengthy note on the letter stating he would never hire this company because he perceived this person to be incompetent because of the spelling and the grammar. 

The fifth step to winning new customers is to be empathetic.  To the extent that you treat someone as special and solve his or her unique needs, he/she will continue to be your best customer. Disneyland says it best "We love to entertain queens and kings, but the bottom line is this: Every guest receives the VIP treatment ... It's not just important to be friendly and courteous to the public it is essential ... At Disneyland we get tired but never bored, and even if it is a rough day we appear happy."  You've got to develop a sense of humor and a genuine interest in people. If nothing else helps remember that you get paid for smiling.

The sixth key for winning new customers, is to give them something extra that they don't expect. For example, one auto repair shop on the east coast makes it a policy for every one of it's mechanics to try to find something else wrong with the cars that were brought in besides what the customer complained about. When the customer comes in to pay his or her bill, the mechanic will say we fixed your problem and we found something else wrong for example maybe a light bulb didn't work and we fixed it free of charge. Now the customer didn't expect this and is really excited. And there is a tendency to tell all their friends about this. In fact, this one companies sales went up 40% in one year based almost entirely on referrals

The six ingredients we just discussed point out the fact that although your technical job skills might be excellent, it's not enough. Remember that people do business with their friends. Develop win/win relationships and see your business skyrocket!

The real secret success ingredient is you. Your attitude in the long run will determine more than anything else your ultimate success. According to William James, "It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult undertaking which, more than anything else, will determine its successful outcome."

Your attitude influences your internal communication which influences your external communication. How you see the world has a definite effect on how you come across to others ... And since you're really selling yourself, how others see you can make the difference between success and failure. To improve your attitude or adjust it now and then when it goes out of adjustment, there are three steps to follow:

The first is the flipside exercise.  This exercise is based on the premise that no matter what happens you always look at the positive side of things. For example, if you don't like your job the flip side of that would be that at least you have a job or if your sales are off the flipside might be well at least I'm healthy enough to seek clients. If this was that easy everyone would do it. But to make it work we must write this down on a daily basis. I would suggest that every time something goes wrong you write down what it is and then write what the flipside would be. 

The second step to keep your attitude adjusted is to focus on your blessings. Too many times we focus so much on our problems that we forget about all we have to be thankful about. When things are getting you down think about the things that are important in your life that really make it worthwhile. For example, if you've had a bad day in the office think about your family, health, you've got a job, your home, and other important things.

The third step is to simplify your life.  Look at all the areas where you can simplify your life. By doing this your outlook improves and you become more effective and efficient. For example, by cleaning your desk, you don't seem as overwhelmed and you become calmer when dealing with clients. In another situation, one of my clients was going to fire one of their salespeople because he had a bad attitude. On farther review it turned out that his attitude was a result of a long commute he had to get into work. The salesperson moved closer to work and almost overnight his attitude changed .. and as a result of being more pleasant his sales went up over 60%.

No one is immune to difficulties and there will be peaks and valleys that are not optional experiences in marketing and sales. But if you follow the 3 steps we just discussed you will notice a big difference not only in your business but in your personal life.

As I mentioned in the beginning, communication is the foundation for everything you do. Follow the rules we discussed and watch your business skyrocket! 

(c) Arnold Sanow, MBA, CSP is an internationally known speaker and trainer. He is the author of four books including the best-seller, "Marketing Boot Camp" For information about his speaking and training call 352-438-0261 email [email protected] or visit www.ExpertSpeaker.com/Speakers/sanow.htm 


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