Posted: October 30, 2013
Best of CoBiz: The world’s most powerful sales tool
It's not what you say -- it's how you say itJulie Hansen
What is your most powerful sales tool? Your website? Your video brochure? Your multi-media presentation in 3-D?
While all of these can support your message, the answer lies much closer to home. YOU are your most powerful sales tool. It's not so much what you say as how you say it that influences other people. Studies show that 55 percent of what is communicated to others comes from our body language, 38 percent from the sound and quality of our voice and a shockingly low 7 percent comes from the words themselves. If you are relying strictly on the "what" to do the selling, you are very likely to be outsold by someone who has also mastered the "how."
Actors refer to this as their "instrument." A professional actor would never walk out onto a stage without warming up their instrument to make sure they are communicating at their best. They know that once the curtain rises or the camera rolls, they must be "on" or risk losing their audience. In sales, you have an audience as well: Your client or prospect. Don't risk losing them by spending those crucial first minutes working the kinks out of your performance and getting your brain and mouth in gear. Lack of preparation may be the only thing keeping you from effectively engaging, communicating and persuading.
An actor's warm-up is a great place to look for tips on how to prepare for a sales call or business presentation. Spending as little as seven minutes in the morning doing the following simple exercises can make a huge difference in your ability to communicate at your highest potential throughout the day.
1. Proper Breathing: Communication starts with the breath. If you're feeling the stress these days (and who isn't?) it's probably affecting the way you breathe. You may remember from second grade music class that proper breathing is from the diaphragm, but most of us have long forgotten to put that into practice. Place a hand under your rib cage and breathe in until you feel it moving out. This deep breathing gets the oxygen flowing. Do a couple of these before you pick up the phone or go into a meeting and you will feel more relaxed and mentally sharper.
2. Release Tension: Tension is the enemy of good communication; it keeps you from delivering your message as naturally and persuasively as you could. Often we hold tension in our bodies without even being aware of it. Do a tension check to get rid of any hidden tension by tensing up each muscle group in your body, holding the tension for ten seconds, then releasing it.
3. Find your true voice: Most of us are not using the full range of our voice. We get rushed and talk too quickly. We get stuck in a higher or lower range than is suitable for us. We lack vocal variety or clarity. There are many working parts that go into creating the tone, volume and overall quality of our voice. It's important to warm up each part so that you are communicating at your best. Here are a few quick exercises to help you find your true voice:
For the lips: Say "ba-ba-ba pa-pa-pa" and repeat. For the tongue: "ta-ta-ta da-da-da" For the back of throat: "ka-ka-ka ga-ga-ga."
Try some tongue twisters. Say each one of the following several times in a row, getting faster: "Sushi chef, sushi chef, sushi chef..." "Worldwide web, worldwide web... ..." "Unique New York, unique New York..."
4. Energize Your Body: A lack of energy can drain the impact out of the strongest of messages. Make sure your body is engaged before you engage your mouth. Do some quick stretches, jog in place, shake a leg, do the hokey pokey. Do whatever it takes to get the blood flowing and wake up your muscles.
5. Connect your voice to your body: Don't be a talking head; your body should support your voice and your message. Incongruent movement or vocal delivery make people nervous. Try these exercises to bring it all together: Make a fist and punch the air while shouting a hard consonant sound like "pa" or "ba." Imagine throwing your voice to the other side of the room with each jab. Say your sales pitch as you jump around the room, dance or throw punches.
To perform at their best, professional athletes don't show up for the game without stretching, professional singers don't go on stage without vocalizing, so why should we, professional salespeople, go on the business stage without warming up? If you want to give a memorable and persuasive performance, take a cue from actors and develop a consistent training program for your most important sales tool: You.
Julie Hansen helps sales and business executives differentiate their solution and deliver winning presentations by leveraging proven performance skills from film, stage and improv. The founder of Performance Sales and Training, Julie’s techniques have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM, Oracle, SAP and local Colorado companies to gain a competitive selling edge. Julie is an international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro! Learn more about workshops and keynotes at PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.