Are you talking yourself out of sales? Have you considered the way you’re presenting yourself to clients? Your mannerisms and delivery might be affecting your client communications.
Cindy Ashton, an internationally known presentation strategist and CEO of Minerva Enterprises, thinks about these things all the time. Over 20 years of consulting on presentation skills, speaking voice, body language, and content delivery, she’s established tips for better business communications—all based on the premise that how you’re communicating is just as important as what you’re communicating.
For Ashton, the process begins with a look at your energy. Are you focused and attentive? Are you presenting yourself as confident and authoritative but not overbearing? People tend to hold tension in their shoulders, neck, and upper back, making them seem stiff and aggressive. Or they slouch, rounding their shoulders and portraying themselves as smaller, insecure, less trustworthy.
To avoid these issues and communicate effectively, Ashton suggests establishing a simple “pregame” routine to relax your body and get yourself in the zone for a productive business conversation.
“We all carry tension from what we do habitually, and that affects our body posture, which affects our energy, which affects our speaking voice, which affects how we come across to people in a conversation,” says Ashton. “We need to remove that tension so we can present ourselves more effectively.”
The result? Done correctly, a relaxing pregame routine like this will improve your posture so you look confident without trying
too hard. It also relaxes your voice so it comes out louder and more naturally without being pushy or aggressive. Now you’re ready to have an important conversation with a client.
After you’ve relaxed and focused, start client meetings from a position of confidence. Much of this process involves fundamental lessons of personal interaction:
You might be thinking, This is a lot to consider. How do I do all these things without making myself more nervous or overthinking every move? Ashton suggests forgetting about being perfect. Let go of it. Yes, you want to eliminate as many bad patterns as possible, but understand that perfect posture and presentation aren’t necessary. You’ll move in that direction little by little. In the meantime, just relax and be yourself.Next, stop focusing so much on yourself. Instead, direct your energy toward the person across from you. Be involved with your audience. If you’re paying attention to the other person, you won’t have time to be nervous about yourself.
So you’re focused, grounded, avoiding bad habits, and attentive to your audience. The final step is to think about how to present your offer.
There’s a cadence to an effective sales conversation. It starts with a gradual build up, then the pace quickens as you’re explaining the process, the benefits, the features. The idea is to speed up to get people excited. Ask leading questions that encourage them to say “Yes.” Build the tempo, build the excitement, get them agreeing with you. Speed up, speed up …
And then when you present your offer, slow down.
Lay out your proposal clearly.
And then pause.
Be quiet and let it sit there for a few seconds—or minutes, if necessary.
“This is where people lose a sale,” says Ashton. “They talk too quickly after presenting the offer, and they talk themselves out of the sale. People think if they don’t get a response right away, the client might not be interested, and they start to undersell themselves. They backpedal on pricing or start adding things to sweeten the deal. But sometimes clients just need time to process. Let your clients think and respond in their own way. That gives you power over the price and the process.”
When the client does respond, if they come back with a counter offer, questions, or conditions, don’t panic and don’t start backing down. Instead, listen, then ask more questions.
“People want to feel that they are heard,” says Ashton. “So listen. As salespeople, we tend to talk too much. That’s often because we’re nervous. So ask more questions, make that effort to understand, dig deeper. Stay calm, friendly, and connected. Explore alternatives and get to the underlying issues. Asking questions is your best defense.”
If the sales negotiation goes your way, great. If not, you’ve still presented yourself as a competent professional with a strong value proposition. That will leave a strong impression, and who knows, it could set the scene for a later sale once that client has fully considered your offer.
Jeff Kent is the editor-at-large of Professional Photographer.