Which skill do you think your manager needs to improve most?
When Robert Half Management Resources asked this question to more than 1,000 U.S workers, one skill clearly surpassed the rest — communication skills. Adapting your communication style based on individual and situational needs is critical to improving sales performance.
You can have the greatest business strategy and sales plan, but those plans will never get implemented if you can’t communicate effectively. Communication is key, and below are four focus areas where every leader can start improving today.
Focus on These Key Areas to Improve Communication
1. Understand Key Performance Indicators
The in-person face-to-face communication you had with your people allowed for more casual interactions. Those casual interactions in a work from home environment are no longer spontaneous and must be scheduled in advance.
One key performance indicator that a sales leader must monitor is their talk time. It’s important to improve talk time with the people they work with and that work for them. This doesn’t mean telling them what to do or scheduling a meeting to discuss the to-do list, but rather listening, having conversations, seeking input, taking notes, and paying attention. This communication style is paramount.
Talking To vs. Talking With
Don’t assume because a conversation went well for you, that the other person thought it went well too. When you talk to someone, you’re expecting others to react rather than engage and interact. You portray yourself as the dominant speaker and the other person as the passive audience.
According to Doctors of Psychology and authors of First Impressions Valerie White and Ann Demarais, “How you talk about topics matters more than what you actually talk about. You can make a fascinating ethical issue boring if you simply lecture someone about it. On the other hand, you can turn your model airplane hobby into a stimulating conversational topic if you talk about it in a fun and engaging manner.”
To avoid talking to someone, show curiosity, open-mindedness, and interest in the other person’s perspective and interact in the conversation.
2. Ask For Feedback
As a sales manager, you consistently provide feedback to salespeople. However, successful communication is a two-way street, and you must be able to receive feedback as well.
When making critical decisions, ensure you receive feedback from stakeholders and everyone involved in carrying out your decision. Due to time restraints, there are times it’s near impossible to get everyone involved, but that’s where you must gather feedback. It’s your responsibility to ask those around you about their communication preferences.
To improve your skills and grow professionally, it's essential to gather feedback — you can't fix what you don't know is broken!
3. Listen to Respond
The first step to communicate well is to listen well.
There’s a difference between listening and actively listening. When you actively listen, you’re not thinking about what to say next or focusing on one aspect of the conversation. You understand the meaning behind the words, asking relevant questions, and ensuring you heard them correctly.
Even more importantly, you understand what’s not being said. You hear the difficulties and struggles without being told. Elite sales managers are always observing the communication styles of others.
Find a Communications Role Model
You admire others for their courage, resilience, integrity, knowledge, and more. Add to that list of admiration someone you highly respect for their communication skills. As a sales leader, you must be the student of good communicators and consistently work on improving yourself. Find your role model and ask yourself:
- What attracts you to their communication style?
- How do they conduct themselves in conversation and confrontation?
- What does their body language suggest in certain situations?
Once you recognize certain elements of improvement, you can adopt any of their tips, tricks, and tools to fit your own needs and your own style. Over time, you’ll grow and evolve in your communication style and your role models may change.
4. Be Yourself
Be authentic, transparent, and vulnerable. You want to grow your people, improve the organization, and help clients — and that message needs to be clear.
Your team wants to exist in a work environment that eliminates the unknowns that creep into their minds with each decision they make or relationship they foster. Aside from the need for job security and career advancement opportunities — employees want to be a part of a company culture that puts a premium on delivering the truth (Forbes). They want proactive leaders that aren’t afraid to be authentic and share the future of the company.
Communication is Key
This is not the time to under-communicate or miscommunicate. Both will turn a message into a misunderstanding, frustration, or even disaster by being misinterpreted or poorly delivered.
Positive and effective communication is a requirement for any business leader. It’s also the skill that employees feel many executives need to work on the most. So, don’t be discouraged if your traditional and virtual communication abilities need some refinement. Now is the time for you to grow, develop, and improve!