sales passion

You cannot not communicate with your prospects and customers. Whether you are face to face, on the phone, sending e-mails, or text messaging, you are always conveying a message.

 

The ability to communicate effectively is a critical success factor for all professionals in every industry.

According to a study done by Watson Wyatt, companies whose employees communicate effectively have a 19.4% higher market premium than companies that don’t. It turns out that good communication is a soft skill that leads to hard business results.

The ultimate goal is that the message you send is the one that is received — yet there are many factors that impact effective communications.

Let’s examine the actual communication process

You (the sender) have a message that you want to communicate – information you want to convey to someone else (the receiver). It’s up to you to decide how you’re going to transmit that message, choosing which channel. Are you going to do it face to face, in writing (e-mail or texting), or by phone?

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Face-to-face communication can be time consuming, expensive and logistically impossible. Certain news or information always should be delivered in person – ie. firing someone, giving difficult feedback, etc.

That being said, there are times where this is not always a hard and fast rule. When selecting which channel of communication to use, keep in mind that people have preferred ways of getting information. This may be based on learning style or convenience.

So, it’s always best to choose the mode of communication that your “receiver” prefers.

Once you have selected the channel of communication, understand that the message you’re sending needs to be decoded by the person who is receiving it.

There are many things that can impact a message and distort it. Let’s examine eight of these factors:

Communications Factor 1 – Noise

Communications Factor 2 – Communication Signals

Communications Factor 3 – Demographics

Communications Factor 4 – Learning Style

Communications Factor 5 – Proximity

Communications Factor 6 – Behavioral Styles

Communications Factor 7 – Position or Role

Communications Factor 8 – Three Motivators

In Part 1 of this two-part article, we will take about the first three of these.

Communications Factor 1 – Noise

Noise is both psychological and physical. Psychological noise includes things that we say to ourselves like, “Why do I need to be sitting here?”; “How does this relate to me?”; “I wonder if the kids got to school on time?”; and so on.

Physical noise includes things like telephones ringing, traffic in the background, and sidebar conversations – all of these sounds make it difficult to focus on the message.

Communications Factor 2 – Communication Signals

There are three aspects of communication signals – visual, vocal and verbal cues.

Visual Signals

The first, visual signals, is very important when the communication is face-to-face or written. Of course, the visual element is also a factor when there are web cameras on computers.

During in-person encounters, we evaluate the message frequently – not just on what is said, but what the person actually looks like. The first aspect of this visual “scoring” relates to the person’s body language – if any gestures and facial expressions are appropriate to the message, and whether he or she has a good stance and posture. Making eye contact is critical.

A person’s grooming — attention to the details like body odor (and cologne) — is also important. Part of the visual package also relates to dress – is the individual wearing appropriate wardrobe items that fit well? Is anything distracting from the message?

Research by Malcolm Gladwell, cited in his book Blink, shows that tall people, especially men, get more instant credibility. But we can go one step further and state straight out: Attractive people also gain more instant buy-in.

While you obviously can’t change your height or gender, and short of expensive cosmetic surgery, can’t really alter your looks, you need to ensure you look as good as you can, and carry yourself confidently.

Always ensure that your visual “package” is beyond reproach, so it is congruent with your message, and reflects your credibility.

When visual communication is done via writing, our perceptions of people are based on whether their letter or e-mail is spelled correctly, whether they use proper punctuation, have good handwriting, use a pleasing font and with personal notes, even sometimes the paper quality itself.

Even when using PowerPoint during a presentation, if there is a typo, automatically some people will make a decision and change a perception based on that, or stop listening to the message.

Vocal Signals

Vocal signals in communication relate to the way your voice sounds.

How many times have you formed a perception of someone on the phone, but when you actually meet them you think or say, “You sure don’t look like how you sound!”?

This comment is telling – and can be interpreted in a good or bad way.

A high and squeaky voice lacks power and credibility. Sloppy diction may make you sound sloppy overall.

Using lots of “uhs” and “ums” while you speak, gives the appearance of hesitancy. And, your tempo, whether too fast or too slow, can result in a label of rude and abrasiveness, or worse yet — slow and dumb.

Remember, too, that regional dialects and accents can contribute to perceptions. So, if you have received feedback from trusted friends and colleagues that yours may be holding you back, seek out a voice coach.

Verbal Cues

The last element of communication signals relates to verbal cues.

Here is where it’s important to remember that the goal in communication is to connect, not necessarily to impress others.

So, when people use $100 words, “psychobabble,” techno-speak, jargon, and spoken or written acronyms, they risk losing the connection. If people are so busy trying to figure out what you’re saying and actually mean, the actual message can get lost.

The use of tentative language (“I guess”; “I hope”; “sorta”; “maybe” and “kinda”) also creates uncertainty.

Communications Factor 3 – Demographics

Like it or not, people make judgments based on age, gender and race. These factors can work for you, or against you.

Clearly, they impact peoples’ perception of you, hence impact the message.

Demographics are most important during face-to-face communication, since it’s the first thing we see.

For example, is someone being perceived as too young or too old to know what he/she is talking about? This certainly can impact effective communication.

Always be aware of your own demographics filters.

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Next time, in Part 2, we will talk about:

  1. The Listener’s Learning Style
  2. Proximity
  3. Behavioral Styles
  4. Position or Role
  5. The Three Motivators