It’s possible to guide a conversation by asking the right questions. RYAN ESTIS says you should encourage customers to examine their plans.
How much time do you spend each week presenting new ideas? We all spend an increasingly significant portion of our work days drawing on our persuasive communications skills to build relationships, earn trust and align to shared objectives.
These skills, along with other ‘soft skills’ such as creativity and critical thinking, will only become more important as we move further along towards the so-called, Fourth Industrial Revolution.
These transferable skills are essential to keep pace with change as technical skills increasingly become obsolete. According to the World Economic Forum, within the next decade automation and AI (artificial intelligence) will affect more than one billion workers globally.
Here are five ideas to help you develop your persuasive communication skills.
Abandon negative stereotypes
When many people think about ‘sales,’ they think about a bad buying experience that usually includes an overly eager or aggressive sales rep.
In fact, professional selling is about understanding another person’s needs, and helping them solve problems or accelerate opportunities. When you start thinking about sales as a collaborative, problem-solving effort, you expand your perspective and opportunities.
No matter your function, the ability to communicate your ideas in a compelling way that resonates and helps challenge people’s assumptions is valuable. If you believe in what you’re doing and that what you’re doing is right, you’re not just selling – you are being helpful.
Persuasive communication is essential to advance your position. You can’t contribute something valuable without convincing someone why you’re right.
Focus on being helpful
I call this the ‘service mentality’. When your goal is to convince or persuade someone, don’t focus on how you can get them to do something, instead, focus on how you can be helpful. Think about the other person’s goals and objectives and how you can help get them there.
When trying to understand another person’s view, follow this classic communication principle: seek first to understand, then be understood. Leaders are listeners, and active listening is an essential part of effective communication.
The best salespeople are both helpers and teachers. They’re trustworthy, likable, collaborative and curious. They make an effort to uncover problems and then demonstrate how their solution can help.
Content might be king, but context closes deals. If you’re presenting a new jewellery design to a customer or a new concept to your boss for example, come prepared with inspiration behind the design, why a new approach might work for the business model and customer, research and any additional insight you can leverage.
Ideas need context to be relevant. When you have a good idea or a belief system, it’s likely that you will meet resistance along the way. How do you overcome this resistance? By coming prepared. Provide credible, well-researched design styles or management solutions and find examples that will convince others to jump on board.
Plan for overcoming resistance
Prepare to meet with resistance. I’m talking about that N-O word. Your natural reaction may be to give up or shut down, but often resistance can be an opportunity. Understanding concerns, objections and barriers is critical to making progress. Great sellers view resistance as an opportunity to learn, understand and advance the dialogue.
So be prepared. Think through what you expect the resistance to be and how you will respond. Preparation may just provide you with the level of confidence and conviction to help evolve the perspective.
However, it’s also important to recognise that once a decision has been made, even if it doesn’t land in your favour, move forward. Having the ability to disagree and commit is critical to getting things done.
Ask open-ended questions
Good questions are one of the most important ways to communicate. Often, when I’m trying to sell, I do this by viewing a question. When you meet with resistance, probe. Go deep enough so you walk away from the conversation with new information and insight.
Learn more – their position, challenges, needs and areas of confusion – so you can help them move beyond their resistance.
It is possible to guide a conversation by asking the right questions. Encourage a customer to examine their plans and goals through open-ended questions. That way, you can both see the big picture and figure out how you or your product can fit into their grand idea.
Persuasive communication skills are crucial to working from a position of influence. Developing your communication skills will help to navigate your work more effectively, build relationships and thrive during increasingly challenging times.