Advanced Communication Skills Series Posted by David McDermott

I overheard an interesting conversation in a public place recently, with two men talking about their recent holidays. To paraphrase fifteen minutes of discreet listening, it went something like this…

First man: “I had a great time in Greece over Easter”
2nd man: “I went there 2 years ago, we didn’t like it very much”

First man again: “The family loved it, a real chance to get away from it all”

2nd man replied: “We stayed in Crete in the summer, it was too hot, we had to stay in the shade all the time, keep the kids in during the hottest part of the day”

He then proceeded to talk about all the things he never liked about the holiday. This went on for quite some time before his friend said he had to go.

This was not really a conversation, more an exchange of statements with both individuals completely focused on their own experiences and definitely neither listening nor responding to the other’s views or feelings.

As I was waiting for my friend to arrive, I had time to reflect on this and wonder just how frequently this occurs in a sales environment, with clients.

What if they were managers and behaved like that in performance reviews! Can you imagine the one-way conversation? It is probably better not to…

I wondered if there was any awareness at all of the process they were going through?

Swapping statements would NOT seem to be a winning strategy when seeking to influence, yet it would seem to be an unconscious response when talking to friends and clients.

Research shows that empathy in sales environments is the biggest driver of trust; where empathy and trust are built, the client relationship develops to be meaningful and longer term.

Conversely where empathy is absent the relationship remains superficial, thereby providing your competitors with an opportunity to become your client’s trusted supplier.

Building trust, empathy and meaningful business relationships does take time, enormous effort to listen, to understand another person’s point of view and be able to respond appropriately.

With increasing product and service commoditisation in many markets, the differentiation is often via the skills of individuals and tailoring of any client interaction, meaning it is absolutely clear you understand their needs. One global business trend across sales is for buyers to partner with fewer suppliers and build deeper relationships. The consequences of being locked out of longer-term deals have increased. Therefore business development managers need to understand that the impact of their behaviour, via personal awareness is critical to commercial demands.


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