Communication is a part of our everyday life. Whether you are a sales professional, a doctor or a lawyer (or any profession for that matter) it’s best to have an above average communication skill level to understand others and be understood. This thought came to me yesterday; I was on the phone talking to my older sister. I love her dearly, but I noticed a rise in my blood pressure as we discussed current world events and the news of our family. Nothing bad, just when she asked me a question, and as I was beginning to respond, she interrupted. As sales professionals we could all use better communication skills….below I have listed my top five.

Back to my one-sided conversation with my sister. After she had finished, I tried again to answer her question, and yet again she interrupted. The third time, as I was once again answering her original question, she asked another question. I still had yet to answer her first question. I asked, “Are you finished? Can I speak?”. She said, “Oh yeah, go ahead.”

So, as I began, I was maybe into two or three sentences responding, she interrupted again. (this is where my blood pressure went up). This time she was challenging me on my answer, the one I was just beginning to give. I stopped and asked, “Wait a second. Didn’t you just ask for my opinion? Is it my turn to speak?”

Has that ever happened to you? Salespeople who are just starting out typically interrupt or prevent others from finishing their thoughts.  Although this blog is about better communication in selling, it has a wider application. Excellent communication today has been replaced by talking over others, yelling, and using expletives.  Why are we so afraid to engage and exchange our ideas? Maybe it is because fewer people are reading and struggle with alternative views. More and more of us are responding to “Headline” and “Breaking” news without facts or knowing the sources behind those “facts.” Moreover, some of us are reacting to 160 characters, when a more detailed explanation is needed. (I think you know who I mean).

From my perspective, there are five essential communications skills, numbered below, from the easiest to the hardest, designed to improve our ability to communicate. OK, first take a deep breath:

  1. Don’t interrupt: good communication is an exchange; it has a flow. I speak then you talk. Go with the flow. Allow others to express themselves. My grandmother suggested this to me in second grade.
  2. Do not talk over someone’s head: if you use regional jargon, colloquialism, or unfamiliar industry-speak, you do not look smarter, it only alienates others by making them feel uninformed. Not a good feeling.
  3. Use facts or opinions (do not mix the two): Uh-oh, are some organizations out there trying to use facts as opinions, or the reverse? If you are sharing your opinion, just say so. This action may be hard to do since it does require a sense of honesty and as we all know honesty is the best policy.
  4. Agree to disagree: can we avoid all the fights by being less interested in being “right” and more interested in learning an alternative perspective from others?
  5. Use active listening: periodically, take the time within the conversation to stop and repeat back, in your words, what you think you heard from the other person. Clarify and seek to understand as Stephen Covey once advocated. This is hard, but with effort, you get your Ph.D. in communication with devotion to this practice.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, How Are Your Listening Skills, it is the other half of effective communication. In an exchange with another, are they making a statement or asking a question? A question is an open invitation to respond; a statement is not.

I think we have all seen the W.A.I.T. abbreviation, which stands for Why Am I Talking. Before responding, it is a good idea to ask ourselves, do we have something to contribute? If not, keep quiet. By following these small but significant tips, I am certain your communications skills will improve. People with whom we interact will have a better understanding of who we are through our thoughts and ideas. We may never convince another to change their views but we can gain a greater insight into their thoughts and ideas. It does not mean we agree. It only means we heard the other person.

What do you think? Can America use better communication skills?

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If you want to improve your sales performance, apply these three suggestions daily. If you liked this blog, please share on social media. If you are a business owner, sales manager or a sales professional looking to develop your growth strategy, let’s talk. I am Will Harley, with Harley-Consulting, a growth services company. With over 20 years of business leadership experience, I leverage my experience to help professionals achieve their goals. To learn more, click on subscriber section. Or, leave a comment; I promise to reply immediately.