What’s the second-most powerful communication skill?

Get a group of competent salespeople together and ask them to share their most powerful communication skill.  What makes a good salesperson great?

Odds are they’ll all say the same thing, that they ask great questions. Consider what a carefully-framed question does in the interview:

  • It gets the prospect talking, and when the prospect is talking, he’s buying. You are silent.
  • It helps the prospect through his own self-discovery process. He learns what he needs by articulating it himself.
  • It provides information on needs, of course.
  • It tells the prospect that you are respectful and interested in him and his goals.  I like it when you ask me about me!

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedAnd there are dozens of great questions you can ask. I’ve written about many of them on this site for two years now.  Here are just a few useful ones that ought to be in your own memory bank of killer questions:

  • What are you trying to achieve?  What’s most important to do?
  • What obstacles or challenges are you facing right now?  (Never ask “What’s keeping you up at night?” or “Where are you feeling the pain?”  These are trite and poorly worded. Your prospect has heard them from other salespeople and will think you’re a cookie-cutter.)
  • Why did you accept this meeting with me today?
  • What happens if you do nothing at all?
  • What process did you go through to select your present provider?
  • What question should I have asked you today that I didn’t?

Pick up any book on effective selling techniques and you’ll find lots more examples.  And while the great questions should easily come to mind when called for, you should plan every call with a few questions that attend to affective, or attitudinal issues (what the prospect feels, likes, worries about or fears), that are specific to each prospect.

So if we agree that effective probing is the most powerful skill, then what is the second-most powerful?  What should you be doing that you are probably not doing so well now?

My own observation after observing many sales interviews, is that the interim summary is too often overlooked or under-used.

The interim summary differs from the wrap-up or global summary, so let’s look at an example. At the end of a call you make a general summary of all you learned before you advance the sale. It might be,

“Thank you for the time and information you provided today. Let me summarize all we’ve discussed and some logical next steps.  First, you shared concerns that turnaround time delays are affecting your cash flow, and that the information you need to make useful decisions is not always robust.  You also mentioned that…”

But the interim summary differs greatly.  It is a quick, short paraphrase of a key point during the conversation, such as,

“So it sounds as if that process has caused you some frustration, hasn’t it?”  Or, “It seems to me that you’re relying on the older equipment, despite maintenance costs?”

I can think of at least FIVE benefits to incorporating interim summaries into your sales conversations, but I’m out of room for today’s post. So here’s a challenge for you.  Jot down the five benefits you think you gain from using the interim summary, or have your team do it next week in your meeting.  Or simply comment with any of them here on the blog.

Next week I’ll give you all the answers, and more.  Meanwhile,

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

2 Responses to What’s the second-most powerful communication skill?

  1. best post ever – thank you

  2. David Mayes says:

    Reblogged this on mayo615 and commented:
    Another excellent post on communication skills from Gregory LaMothe. While he is focusing on the sales process, frankly the concept here of interim summaries is about listening and feedback, equially valid for any serious communication process.

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