The G.R.E.A.T. ™ Sales Professional for The 21st Century

“Seek first to understand before being understood.” The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey

I have used that quote often in my career to help others understand the importance of communication and the style in which you communicate. It is not only what you say, but also how you say it that affects the response from others.

As I described in Part 1 of this Series, the five skills you want to develop and practice to become G.R.E.A.T. ™ are:

Gain Insight

Right Behaviors

Exceed Expectations

Attitude Is Everything


Step #2 to becoming G.R.E.A.T. ™ is having the Right Behaviors in a sales situation. Professional behavior encompasses many things: style of communication, etiquette, business dress, respect, follow through and knowledge of your product and services. Behaviors also include discipline, productive activity to move the sale forward, and working smarter. The G.R.E.A.T. ™ salesperson does all of these things and does them naturally.

Style of communication along with the tone of your voice will be the determining factors as to whether or not a customer buys from you. Communication describes the process of making and keeping this connection. According to research, only 7% of the objective message communicated is composed of spoken words. The remaining 93% of how you communicate with people consists of “style” or tone of voice (38%) and body language (55%). Research also shows that customers watch how you carry yourself, your facial expressions, and your appearance. These factors can unconsciously affect their decision about doing business with you before you say a word. To learn more about this topic, I recommend The Heart of Coaching, Using Transformational Coaching to Create a High-Performance Culture, by Thomas G. Crane.

I recently finished certification in Powerful Communication™. This program takes individuals or teams through a series of hands-on exercises to learn the most innovative approaches to understanding and directing human communication, experiences and behaviors through a research-based specific language model. A great deal of fascinating data with proven results confirms that successful teams communicate effectively with each other and with customers.

A client I am coaching used these exercises to improve her style of communication in her workplace. She struggled communicating with her boss for several years when making an important point or suggestion. She felt that this person had never really listened to her. We discussed how her choice of words would make a difference. She looked confused and wanted to know how that would work. I then asked her a series of questions such as “When you are talking to this person, where do their eyes go? Are they a visual or an auditory person? Visual people will process words like “look,” “see,” “view”. Does this person look down when you talk to them? Auditory people process words like “listen,” “hear,” and sounds. Does this person speak slowly like kinesthetic communicators? They process words like “feel,” “touch,” and “grasp.”

We then designed her message and the way in which she would deliver it. She called me the next day in amazement and said, “You are never going to believe this. In the 12 years of working for my boss, the TV in the office was always on until now! They listened, told me my points were valid, and offered to make the recommended changes.”

As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, your tone of voice is 38% of communication. Therefore, it is critical to manage how you communicate in a sales call. It is not what you say, but how you say it that affects the outcome of a sale.

Understanding the people with whom you communicate and their style of language will have you on your way to becoming a G.R.E.A.T. ™ sales person.

Step #3 is Exceeding Expectations. Customers today already have high expectations so exceeding them is an art. Without question, customers are more knowledgeable through technology, education and access to information on the internet. They insist on higher quality, greater value and more efficiency than ever. How do you and your company deal with those increasing demands?

Companies’ behavior affects buyers’ expectations in a reinforcing cycle. Their pattern of doing business and responding to customer demands unconsciously educates consumers on what to expect. Has a customer ever told you that unless you respond with the best price, your products will no longer be on the shelves or your services terminated? How did you and your company respond? Did you create Value or did you acquiesce to their demands?

I believe there are two types of sales professionals when dealing with customer expectations: an emotionally oriented and a functionally oriented sales person. An emotionally oriented person offers many extras that add price without enhancing functionality. A functionally oriented person often infuses commodity products with new life by adding a dose of emotion and, in doing so, can stimulate new demand.

This happens often in the medical device industry. A sales professional introduces a new product, while adding emotion and hype to create a new demand. They may also undercut the price of a product that enhances functionality. This cycle can sometimes create unrealistic demands from the customer.

Sales experts will tell you never to lead with price. Create VALUE when selling your product and services, always deliver on your promises, and do not fall short of your customers’ expectations. I stress the importance of under-promising and over delivering no matter what commitment you made to a customer. If you say you will call them next week, call them next week. If you commit to provide educational information, provide that information sooner then you committed. Never put yourself in a professional situation where you fall short of what YOU committed!

What differentiates a G.R.E.A.T. ™ sales professional is that they always manage expectations and continue to exceed expectations.

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