Communication is not just important but critical in any of our human relationships. Whether it be with family, in a marriage, with friends or in our sales role. Communication plays a pivotal role in reducing misunderstandings or improving clarity and eventually strengthens the bond among individuals. A relationship loses its charm if individuals do not express and reciprocate their feelings through various types of communication.
Anyone in sales will share the importance of the relationship between a salesperson and a customer. But before we even get to that customer relationship, there must be a solid relationship between a salesperson and their manager. That happens through communication, and the best communication takes place in a conversation.
Texts, emails and quick phone calls are only parts of communication. In the book, Part-Time Sales Management, one of the five pillars of managing a sales team is Conversations. In-depth conversations build trust, show commitment and convey that a person cares. I like the metaphor the book uses: conversations are to communication as lubricant is to an engine.
William Shakespeare said this. Conversation should be pleasant without scurrility, witty without affection, free without indecency, learned without conceitedness, novel without falsehood. Wow! Breaking it down, Sir William is simply saying this—be pleasant, open, considerate, humble and genuine.
Art or Skill
A conversation falls somewhere between an art and a skill, and all of us have room to improve. Stephen Covey said this about conversation—Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It’s more succinct than Shakespeare and makes good practical sense.
In a sales conversation between a manager and a salesperson, we all need to be more intentional. Some conversations happen over lunch or in passing and cover topics like the weather or current events. That’s fine, but in real “managerial” conversations, we exchange ideas, information, concerns, reflections and include honest feedback and input. This exchange of ideas includes pertinent, thoughtful, topical and sometimes pointed questions that not only seek information but understanding. Both ways. Any good conversation is two-way, not one way.
Practice Makes Progress
With the passing of basketball phenomenon, Koby Bryant, one of the stellar characteristics that many of his friends and competitors admired about him was his commitment and dedication to practice. So, practice good conversations. Here are a few pointers:
- Make the effort to have timely, considerate and real conversations often. Friends and spouses are great practice—and can reap great reward.
- Remember that conversations are an exchange of ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.
- Conversations build trust—the more we know the more we understand.
- Ask questions and clarify to build that understanding that is much needed in conversations.
- Conversations can be broad or more direct and even serious. Regardless, see #1 through #4.
As a side note, teaching, coaching or directing can be part of a conversation, but remember that a conversation is much more than one of those alone. And, there is no time limit on conversations. Some are short and some are longer. But know that you can be and should be a model for productive conversations. Always give appropriate time to topics. Make appointments for conversations. Treat conversations with the respect that they deserve and need. The potential benefits of conversations are countless and often include simple clarification around an issue, uncovering a misunderstanding, dismissing false assumptions, correcting a wrong interpretation or purely building rapport. Over time as you work on the art and skill of having conversations it will go without saying that people will know that you are someone they can trust to have a constructive conversation.