Communication and Sales, Part One

By Thomas Young

Proper communication is a study worthy of many PhDs. At the center of the sales process is how well we communicate. Communication is a two-way street, involving a sender and receiver. The best sales people are excellent receivers, or listeners. They also need to be excellent senders, or presenters, even though they should spend most of their time listening. Becoming an excellent communicator is hard work and should not be taken lightly. Here are a few communication tips that will strengthen your sales process, help you understand customers and close more sales.

It’s About Trust
Communication is about trust, not technique. When trust is high it is effortless, when trust is low it is a huge burden. Have you noticed how communication is easier with people you know and trust? Even if there is a miscommunication, it is resolved easily because of the trust that is central to the relationship. To be a better communicator, find ways to build trust in your relationships with customers. To build trust, learn to be a better communicator. The key to becoming a better communicator is becoming a phenomenal listener. This is especially useful when communicating with people from different cultures or individuals who may not exactly click with you. Make the first step towards understanding where they are coming from, then work to be understood. As you build trust, communication becomes easier.

Forms of Communication 
There are four forms of communication to be aware of and use to connect with customers.

    1. Verbal
      These are the actual spoken words. Imagine as if the words were written down on paper and read by your customers, without any nonverbal influence. This is the simplest form of communication and the least important. It is not what you say, but how you say it that matters. The key areas here are clarity, proper grammar and sentence structure. You do not have to attend Harvard to excel in these areas, but you do need to practice to get it right.


  1. Nonverbal
    Most of what is heard during communication is nonverbal, even on the telephone. Nonverbal communication dominates all sales conversations. If you have not yet seen these numbers, take a look: Only 7% of communication is expressed in spoken words; 38% is the tone of one’s voice; and the remaining 55% is other nonverbal cues. Who you are communicates so loudly that people cannot hear what you are saying. The key is to say what you feel and be honest with what you are trying to accomplish. Your communication should be in line with your intentions. 
  2. Symbolic
    This is the choice of words used to communicate a message. It is a form of nonverbal and is a powerful way to communicate. Examples include, hot, heat, warm, toasty, burning etc… all of these words are used to describe basically the same thing, but the choice of words makes a difference in how it is understood. All words have symbolic meaning, in addition to the actual, well-known dictionary definition. Be aware of the words you choose and their impact on your prospects and customers. 
  3. Between the Lines
    This is the message that needs to be communicated and must be deciphered to be properly understood. It is what we don’t say, or don’t know how to say. Professional sales people must be clear and direct. There is no place for game playing in your communications. Prospects and customers may not adhere to this practice, therefore it is your challenge to learn to intuit or read between the lines. The best way to get to the bottom of the communication is to ask questions and probe. Repeat back what you think you heard, and let the customer know you are trying to get it right.

These four forms of communication take place in every discussion you have with others. Take time to develop your skills in these areas and become a great communicator.

Tom Young, MBA is president of Sales Training Plus, a sales training and marketing consulting firm helping companies increase revenues. He can be reached at 719-481-4040, or e-mail at  [email protected]. For more articles like this one, visit his web site