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January 30, 2013

Sharpen Your Communication Skills to Successfully Market Yourself

Communication is an exchange a simple but vital concept. Often we approach interchanges with no consideration of how the other party will react.  Our own message looms large, overshadowing the person with whom we are communicating. Cultivating an awareness of how another person is likely to react to your communication is key to effective communication. Next, create identification with the other person.  In addition to putting that person at ease, it will open your mind to his or her perceptions and reactions — a vital part of communication. Donald J. Moine of Redondo Beach, California, is a psychologist who heads his own sales and management training firm.  Dr. Moine compared the sales techniques of high-achieving and mediocre salespeople.  He found that top sales personnel instinctively match, with hypnotic effect, the customer’s voice tone, rhythm, volume, and speech rate.  Career marketers, take note!

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“The good salesman or saleswoman matches the customer’s posture, body language, and mood,” explains Moine.  “If the customer is slightly depressed, the salesperson shares that feeling and acknowledges that he or she has been feeling a little down lately.  In essence, the top sales producer becomes a sophisticated biofeedback mechanism, sharing and reflecting the customer’s reality even to the point of breathing with the customer.”

The technique works because “hypnotic pacing” helps establish trust and rapport.  It does not work as a gesture, however.  Anything other than an honest attempt to understand the other person and his or her frame of reference in a particular situation will be seen as mimicking, which will decrease trust.

Whether writing a letter, speaking with a coworker, or calling a client, consider that person’s likely mood and reaction.  What effect is your message likely to have?  How can you phrase that message for maximum benefit? High-achievers of any discipline must heed this warning – mistakes in your communication style may be very small but small mistakes can hurt you in your advancing career path. Some sales people come across powerfully when representing their own products or a company but their communication style, their ‘greatest strength’, comes across as arrogant when marketing themselves for a new promotion or new job. In other words, a certain sense of humility must be deployed by high achievers when marketing yourself.

Higher Levels of Communication
According to Lyman Steil, Ph.D., an authority on communication, we all communicate with each other on four levels.

* The first level is small talk, or informal conversation.
* The second level is catharsis venting feelings and sharing problems and frustrations.
* The third level is the exchange of information, the level most of us use during the typical business day talking over strategies or passing on facts.
* Persuasion is the fourth level.  People generally warm up to this level, beginning with small talk and going on to level two or three, finally trying to convince you to change your mind or sell you on an idea.

The primary concern is honing your skills at levels two and three.  However, focus on level four is important because adeptness in persuading others will be the most helpful level to you in your career marketing efforts.

Enhancing Your Communication Skills
Establishing eye contact is vital to opening up a line of dialogue with another person.  Think back to uncomfortable situations you’ve been in during your career.  Were you looking down or away from the person speaking?  Was the other person constantly focusing at a point somewhere over your shoulder?  Staring at someone is often taken as a threat or an insult, but a direct, clear gaze is important.

Notice people who try to get your attention, such as political workers at the entrances to polls or volunteers for charity during Christmas or other holidays.  Before they say one word, they seek to establish eye contact.  Looking down, hunching your shoulders, and hurrying away will usually dissuade them from attempting a conversation.  If they catch your eye, however it’s nearly certain you’ll listen to what they say.

Not surprisingly, Salvation Army “Santas” claim that they almost always get a donation if they make eye contact with pedestrians.  Salespeople who use eye contact with customers generate more and larger sales.  The same goes for working in the business world.  Managers and executives who use their eyes when talking with their staff open up communications, get more work done, and rise faster in their careers.

If you’re leading a meeting, get there in time either to talk to or establish eye contact with and nod to all the people attending.  They will feel more like participating and you will have the opportunity to gauge their moods.

Maximizing Use of the Telephone
You wouldn’t think of walking into someone’s office and starting a conversation without knocking first.  Yet people do that every day on the telephone.  Always give the person the option to call you back later if it’s not a good time. Short, professionals messages should be left and clearly give them a phone number and repeat your phone number.

Since you can’t see the other person, which generally accounts for a great deal of  information during a conversation, ask extra questions about how the person feels concerning what you’re saying.  When you call an office and the person isn’t in, leave a complete message.  Give your name, title, organization, and a brief explanation of why you are calling. We do mean brief. Remember to rehearse your message to make sure the caller does not hang up in the middle. People have no patience for meandering message leavers.

Joe Stumpf, an automated sales training specialist, offers many techniques for professional use of the telephone, among them, these:
1. Answer the phone on the second or third ring, if possible.  Your goal when answering the phone is making the caller feel important and comfortable, and you have about 15 seconds to make a lasting first impression.
2. Never start your phone presentation with an apology.  You lose all control and positioning.
3. Answer your phone with enthusiasm.  It’s positive and contagious.  Place a mirror next to your phone.  Before you answer, look in the mirror and say, “I answer my phone with enthusiasm.”
4.  Smile when you talk.  You sound happier.
5.  Develop a sincere and positive attitude.  People know when you’re faking it.
6.  Speak slowly. The norm is 150 wpm. Slow down to 100 words per minute.
7.  Have empathy.  Listen.  Let them know you understand.
8.  Don’t interrupt.
9.  Take notes.  This will help you remember important points.
10. Listen for the overtones.
11. Use the caller’s name.  It is, for him or her, the sweetest sound in language.
12. Be proud of yourself.  How you feel about yourself is heard in your voice.
13. Pause!
14. Show you’re grateful and appreciative.  Say, “Thank you.”

This is a long list and you’re not likely to master it soon, but if you follow only a handful of the tips, your phone skills will improve immediately.

The Nonverbal Clues of Conversation
When speaking in person rather than on the phone, you can of course read a person’s nonverbal clues.  Any time that interpersonal communication takes place, there are nonverbal clues in the conversation.  The effective career marketer becomes aware of and constantly monitors various body language signals, such as personal space, posture, and gestures.

1. Personal space.  How far away does the other party stand?  A normal space zone between two people in business is 4 to 12 feet.  Still, everyone’s space zone may differ. Monitor any changes during a conversation or over the course of many conversations that may indicate an attitude change in the person.

2. Posture.  Is the other person standing tall (exhibiting confidence) or slouching (possibly indicating defeat, depression, or lack of confidence)? Notice your own posture when speaking to different people in your office.  Do you stand differently when talking to your supervisor versus a coworker?  Your goal is to present impeccable posture every time!

3. Gestures.  Are the person’s gestures consistent with the spoken message?  If your boss praises your work while turning away from you to look elsewhere, the messages are inconsistent.  You’ll be safe to take the nonverbal gesture looking away as the more accurate one, since we’re in more conscious control of our verbal, rather than nonverbal, statements.

Whether or not you seek to be, you are communicating all day long, especially when you’re at work.  By becoming more aware of this dynamic process and the verbal and nonverbal clues that you send to bosses, coworkers, and the office staff, you can better position yourself to relay the type of message you choose. Career advancers of all ages think through their image, look, touch and smell. Do not ignore what seems obvious. How do you smell? What cologne do you wear? For women, what perfume or scent, if any, should you wear? As a guy, should you wear cologne? At your age what’s your most appropriate look? Has you hair style changed and should it for your target audience? How does your physical appearance market you? Do you need to start a fitness program? Is your weight and physical appearance helping you or holding you back? Little things in the four senses make a difference and you need a check up on these constantly.

Level Four Persuasion
More than 100 years ago author Robert Louis Stevenson said “everyone lives by selling something.  Could that apply to everyone?  Surely not to a newborn baby, for instance, or to a nun.  Or could it?  A newborn baby sells love, affection, and hope for the future to parents, relatives, and siblings.  A nun sells the love of God, love of humanity, and the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood for all.  If you are married, you have already made the ultimate sale  convincing your spouse that it would be in his or her best interests to share a life with you.

What about selling at the workplace?  One partner with a Big Six accounting firm observed that between any two people, at any given time, one is selling something to the other.  This is a profound realization and one that can easily be misunderstood.

Whether you’re with your boss, a coworker, production staff, a member of your family, or a friend, hundreds if not thousands of “sales” are occurring continuously.  Shall we meet at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.?  Does the report need to include the extra exhibit? Do we choose this restaurant or that?  To resolve such questions, one person undoubtedly influences or obtains agreements from the other.

Even if the actual position you presently hold doesn’t remotely involve formal or designated responsibility for selling, you will nevertheless advance in your career by improving your salesmanship. “In my experience working with people in difference careers over 20+ years,” O’Connor states, “I’ve noticed and coached many people who ignored sales skills at their own peril. Software developers, managers not in sales and many other supposed ‘non sales types’ gradually have learned that improving their ‘sales skills’ or should we say communication has directly and positively helped them land new jobs and better opportunities to advance in their profession. Yes, it is true, we are all in sales.”

Brimming with Enthusiasm
Dale Carnegie probably said it best about 70 years ago when he remarked, “Enthusiasm is contagious.”  The enthusiasm you have for your current task, projects on which you work, your job, your organization, and your community, is contagious.  When you become excited and enthusiastic about what you’re doing, you’ll more readily gain the interest and participation of others.  Approach the same task with a “who-gives-a-darn” attitude and absolutely no one will want to help you.

Have you ever noticed that some of the most successful people that you know are motivated by powerful slogans and phrases?  My late father, who was the vice principal of a junior high school, used to win people over the second they entered his office.  His walls were filled with pictures of great Americans such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. and slogans and phrases that he would sometimes refer to and draw upon when working with a troubled adolescent.  Simply entering his office was an uplifting experience.

I suggest that you glance through Bartlett’s familiar quotations, similar books, or CDs.  Slogans and phrases can empower and help to energize us.  I keep several such books by my desk, and whenever I find enthusiasm or energy waning, or I need to get charged up to close a deal, I spend a minute or two with these powerful passages.

Review a phrase or slogan before you have to make a presentation, or when you’ve made an unpopular decision that you know to be right, or simply because you want to. Even the most enthusiastic among us often suffer some down time.  Words have power. Words can build or destroy. Successful career advancers can change their self-talk and changing the words into powerfully positive statements can have a direct and lasting impact to their career. Successful people tend to talk differently to themselves and it tends to be optimistic talk which is powerful. Powerful statements tend to recharge our batteries and can create a setting for other positive ideas and thoughts.

It All Starts in Your Mind
Irrespective of your position in your present organization, or whom you have to report, and whom you need to influence to get ahead, selling, as we have discussed, is an essential part of your career success.  All top earners in professional selling agree that the sale, any sale, starts in the seller’s mind.  When you are firmly convinced regarding what path to take, what strategy to follow, then you are ready to effectively convince others. Many people interested in improving their career or making a successful career change have to work on but become very good at persuasion. The most successful find ways to believe in a worthy cause. They work for a higher purpose, a concept, a belief. They work to help others and change their own circumstances for the better. They often find companies whose causes align with their own and that creates such a positive symmetry that they go on to lead divisions and build something so much bigger than a paycheck.”

Abraham Lincoln was once asked by a student what it would take to become a lawyer.  “Young man,” said Lincoln, “if you are firmly convinced that you are going to become a lawyer, then you are already halfway there.”  So it is with your sales effort.

One young entrepreneur experienced eight years of continued failure, as one bank after another continued to reject his loan application for an innovative recreational project that he had conceived.  At one point, this “dreamer” had to declare bankruptcy, but in the end his selling effort prevailed.  His name was Walt Disney.  Today, more people have visited Disneyland and Disney World than the population of the United States.

Hype is Hollow
The biggest!  The greatest!  The newest!  The fastest!  The best!  As a consumer you probably stay away from products that make too many claims like those.  And they don’t work so well in the office either.  The late David H. Sandler, a sales seminar trainer, believed that contrary to popular conceptions, the most influential and effective salespeople sold softly.  The marks of a “super” salesperson, according to Sandler, included:

* Bringing up objections before the other party thinks of them.
* Concentrating on what will sell the idea while not trying to over impress.
* Spending the first part of the meeting finding out about the other party’s problems.
* Spending much of the meeting time getting the other party to suggest how the problem might be solved.
* Making a presentation tailored to the other party’s needs.

Whether or not you’ve ever considered yourself a salesman or saleswoman, consider yourself one now. Over the years, selling has taken on a rather negative connotation. Yet, it’s selling that turns a depressed economy around, and it’s selling that enables your organization to continue to exist.

Image Credit: instantshift.com

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