The Golden Rules Of Communication

I spent the day with K, meandering around from office to office trying to make some sales. To the companies with Japanese counterparts, naturally, I let him do the talking. For the life of me, I have never seen such ignorant, narrow-minded communication in my life. In fact, his ‘game’ is so bad, I’d be remiss if I did not use it as a case study from which to learn what not to do.

Generally, people are like open books. They will tell stories about themselves to no end if given the opportunity, and would tell it again if you don’t stop them. On a social level that is annoying, but in sales, you can ruin everything from the deal to the reputation of your organization, on top of looking like a complete jackass.

The primary goal of a salesperson is to get the other person to speak. If they don’t speak, you wouldn’t know what they want, so how can you sell them anything? This involves asking a lot of questions, but before you can get reliable answers, the other party needs to open up. To get them to open up means that they trust you, and to do that your story must flow.

First off, introduce yourself. Keep it brief because you must assume the other party doesn’t care who you care, because they really don’t. Along with that, briefly explain the service or product, without delving too deep. When you get too technical, you start to lose the other party, and again, you still don’t know what they want yet. Once you’ve done that, which should take no more than a minute, that’s when things will begin to get greasy.

The person sitting across from you is now in a confused state of mind, defenses high, as they now know who you are but don’t know what it is you want or why you are even talking to them. They have a million questions for you mixed up in their head, and it is your job to answer them before they even ask it. In some cases, salespeople get carried away with the introduction and now appear as nothing more than one gigantic, narcistic ass. This is a fatal flaw and is difficult, if not impossible to recover from. Assuming you have avoided that ruinous fate, it’s now time to answer their unasked questions, but it is imperative you do so in a particular order.

First, explain why it is beneficial to them, the potential customer, to do business with you. Unequivocally, this requires some research on your part, since you should know at minimum what the nature of their business is. Your job here is to pique their interest, all the while understanding that they still don’t trust you yet. This step should involve a mild touch of praise and admiration to address their question of “why me?”, albeit not too much or they’ll write you off as weaksauce.

Now they’re interested, as it is clear to them what problem it is you solve. The only issue now is, why you? Now’s the time to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and justify why working with you is the right choice. Bring up advantages in technology or past track records, and make promises you will be able to deliver. Again, don’t get carried away here or you’ll come forward as boastful and arrogant, and will likely end up with no deal, hoisted by your own petard.

Lastly, and most often forgotten, explain what’s in it for you, and how you benefit through a new relationship with your potential customer. Nobody does anything for no reason and people are more comfortable when you are transparent with your objectives. The worst thing you can do is get this far and say “Yup, I’m doing this for you, there’s no upside for me. My loss is your gain.” That raises plenty of suspicion and creates distrust. Plus anyway, people with basic common sense like to see that their relationships are win-win. Always communicate in this order, and only this order, because that is the way the human mind is designed. In due time you will find yourself getting whatever you want, whenever you want, all day, every day.

K broke all the above rules, AND MORE. By the end of a harrowing 60 minute long meeting, of which he spent 99% of the time talking, I didn’t even know what the other company did, let alone what they wanted. The other guy, on the other hand, was having a field day as K gave away all sorts of proprietary information without him even asking. Had K stopped for a minute to think or ask questions, he would have realized that the other company was in fact a competitor, and making a sales attempt was fruitless and jeopardizing to our position. In other words, what we did today was essentially the equivalent of Burger King trying to sell cheeseburgers to McDonalds, and in the process revealing their secret recipe.

On the way home, I pondered to myself what the fuck am I doing with this guy. Aside from Joe, the entire team in the MT office is not too bright, to say the least, and they seem to get more fulfillment from ‘trying’ than actually producing results. Every day in the office I spent surrounded by them, I envision my IQ shrinking by a good 5 points, and I think it is about time to start looking for an exit.