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Okay, I've got three scenarios I want you to reflect on.
Scenario #1: You're a salesperson or marketer and you're introducing a new product to the market. You want to roll it out to your customers in a way that gets them excited and makes them want to try it. How do you approach each customer?
Scenario #2: You're trying to convince your boss to buy into an idea you have. You need to not only get their approval on bringing the idea to life, but you also need them to give you some budget to use in the execution of your idea. How do you approach him or her, and get them to give you the green light?
And, Scenario #3: You want to buy a new house, but your spouse isn't quite so sure about it. How do you convince him or her that this move would be good?
Now, there's definitely differences between these scenarios, right? External customer vs. internal manager vs. spouse. Professional vs. personal life. Product vs. idea. However, all three have one very important thing in common: you need to convince someone else to do what you want.
And this happens to us all the time.
Life is a series of negotiations between ourselves and the people we interact with every day. And if we want to get more of our product sold or more of our ideas bought into, we have to become better communicators!
In this post, I'm going to share three of our favorite strategies for how to communicate more effectively – and it doesn't matter if that's in your capacity as a salesperson, marketer, spouse or some other area of your life. We teach all of these concepts (and others) in our training programs – in particular, in our Agribusiness Relationship Mastery Experience – and they work. Because, after all, you're always going to need to work with other people and get them on your side. The trick is figuring out how to do that most effectively. These strategies are a great start.
1. Don't tell someone anything you can ask them about.
If you've ever bought anything from another human being, you know the type of salesperson that is dependent on their talking points and list of features and benefits. From the minute you enter the conversation, they're telling you the wonders of their product, every benefit it can provide and all the problems it will solve. You wonder if you've stepped into a bad infomercial. You can't get a word in edgewise.
And, 9 times out of 10, you aren't going to buy it.
Why? Because that salesperson never clarified whether or not you actually needed what they were trying to sell.
And this happens in life all the time.
All too often, when we're trying to convince someone that our product or idea is something they should buy into, we rely on our own knowledge and opinions to convince them we're right. And we talk. And talk. And talk.
And then wonder why they turn us down.
Now, I know why we do this – after all, I'm often just as guilty as the next person. We want the person we're talking with to see us as intelligent, that we know our stuff, that we've done our homework. It's also less scary to prepare a script ahead of time and stick to it. Unfortunately, it's not always the most effective approach.
So, next time you're trying to sell a product or idea, avoid defaulting to features and benefits, and instead follow this rule: never tell them anything you can ask them.
Let me put it back in the real world. Compare the the scenario described earlier – where you're focused on a list of features and benefits – with this introduction:
"Bob, I've been out talking with a fair number of people in a similar role to yours and it seems like just about everyone has at least 2-3 things they wish they could do better next year vs. this past year. Just curious - what are those 2-3 things for you?" Goal: Have them self-identify their problem (which your product or idea can solve) INSTEAD of you just telling them what problems your product can fix.
Or this discussion:
"Susan, as I'm calling on customers, I find that - while most businesses are quite unique - they do tend to view suppliers as basically all the same. I believe it's my job to earn your trust, though, and I'm curious: when it comes to earning YOUR trust, what are the expectations a supplier needs to meet?" Goal: Have them set expectations – so that you can share how you meet those qualifications perfectly.
Or this discussion:
"Jenny, as we look to the future, what do you think our ideal home should have? Where is it located? What does it look like? As we plan together, I'd love to hear what your vision is." Goal: Have them paint the ideal picture – so you can demonstrate how your ideas match up to what the other person has already said they want.
There are so many variations of this strategy that you can use. Regardless of the specific words, though, think about how nice this approach is from the perspective of the other person. Instead of just telling them what you think they want to hear, you let them have a say. You let them tell you what they're struggling with. And when it comes time to solve that challenge – well, you're right there with the perfect solution.
2. Never settle for surface-level responses.
So you've done a good job at asking questions (always open-ended, never yes/no) and they've give you an answer. Now what?
Well, it's time to push further.
These three phrases should be your best friends:
- "What else?"
- "Tell me more about..."
- "Dig into that a little deeper for me."
And keep asking until they can't tell you any more.
If Bob says that he wants to improve yields on some new ground he purchased, you respond with "That's great! What else?" or "Interesting...tell me a little bit more about that," or "Dig into that a little deeper for me – what was it about this year's performance that wasn't up to your expectations?"
Same goes for any other situation. It's very easy to let people off the hook with their first answer. Instead, encourage them to think deeper and help you analyze their response for greater discovery.
Remember: your goal is to get to the point where they've already painted the current situation so perfectly that there should be no other solution except your product or idea. So you need as much information as you can get.
3. Talk to Their Strengths.
If you've been following the blog for a while, you know that we're a big proponent of understanding your strengths and how you can leverage them to create more energy around your work. But that's not where the power of strengths ends.
Knowing the strengths of those around you can be a powerful communications tool.
Let's go back to the original example – you've got a customer or a manager that you're trying to convince to buy into your product or idea. How would your approach change if:
- That customer/manager has a strength of being Decisive – which means they're comfortable making decisions with little or just high-level information?
- Versus if that customer/manager has a strength of being Detail Oriented or basing decisions on Common Sense – which means they're going to want a lot of background information and proof that your product or idea is a good one before they're willing to move forward?
You're going to talk to those people very differently to get their sign-off, right? With a Decisive person, you can go in there with the top 2-3 selling points and be pretty confident they can make a go or no-go decision based on that (and usually no amount of extra info will change that decision unless the top 2-3 points change). With a Detail Oriented or Common Sense-driven person, however, you're going to need examples and studies and trial data, etc. to demonstrate that there's proof to back up their go or no-go decision.
And these are just two examples. Think of how much more effective of a communicator you could be if you started leveraging, not just your own strengths, but the strengths of those you work with.
Pretty powerful stuff.
These are just three quick strategies you can use to be a better communicator in your job and beyond. We encourage you to try them out and see how they work for you! Let us know your experiences in the comments!
Want more? In our training and coaching programs, we show you how to use these – and many other approaches – more effectively to stop surviving in your business and personal relationships, and really start thriving instead. Curious about taking a deeper dive? Shoot us a message and we can talk about whether training+coaching might be right for you!