We as entrepreneurs and sales people don’t spend enough time working to perfect the art of conversation though we are immersed in it daily. Here are 3 ways to improve your communication and influence:
1. State the Purpose, Benefit and Check Your Audience
Opening and positioning conversations are critical first steps to communicating with influence. Providing a Purpose, Benefit, Check on the onset of a conversation can set you up for success. Here’s an example:
“The purpose of this conversation today is to discuss sales strategies for startup organizations. From this conversation we will gain some insights into how to use sales strategies and improve the sales effectiveness in our startup organizations. How does that sound?” Purpose. Benefit. Check.
You have now gained the other persons buy-in as to why they should be engaged in the call. They understand the purpose of the conversation and the value they will receive from the time you will spend together.
2. Ask Impact Questions
Asking impact questions is a great way to influence the conversation and drive to the outcome you are hoping for. Impact questions are more than just closed or open questions as they force a deeper response. When you get a response of “Hmm.. let me think,” or “good question,” you know you have asked an impact question.
Using impact questions will help you engage in the deeper conversations you need to start building a relationship with your prospects. A good mix of transactional questions (closed and open) as well as impact questions typically works best. Too many of one or the other can throw the conversation off track.
3. Don’t Leave a Conversation Without Asking Qualifying Questions
Before we end a sales conversation we must be sure to have asked qualifying questions to help us decide if the opportunity is right. For example, we need to understand if the timing is right, if they have the budget and if this person has the authority to make the decision. We can’t afford to invest our time on unqualified sales opportunities. Here are a few qualifying questions that I find effective:
- How do you feel about what you just saw?
- It sounds like you are key in this decision. Who besides yourself will also be involved?
- Walk me through the typical decision making process for a project like this.
- When would the best time be to implement a solution like this?
- What concerns you most about what you just saw?
- What would stop you from moving this project forward?
- What is most important for you personally in this decision?
Qualifying now will save you plenty of time and headaches later.
Craig Wortmann is founder and CEO of Sales Engine, a sales consultancy. He has been a sales person and entrepreneur for more than 20 years and has led three companies. Wortmann is a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where he teaches an award-winning course on entrepreneurial selling as well as other courses. He is also the author of What’s Your Story?, a book about how leaders and sales professionals use stories to connect, engage, and inspire. You can find his Sales Engine blog here