Have you ever met someone who genuinely believes they are good at sales, only to think to yourself, “You’re not good at sales, you just like to talk a lot.” On the other hand, there are individuals who are actually very strong at communicating with people, but they are a bit more reserved, so they’ve convinced themselves that they are not good at sales.

I think we can all agree that there are people, regardless of personality, who are just gifted at salesmanship. I’m not saying anyone and everyone can be the Babe Ruth of selling; I do believe, however, that anyone can improve their sales skills (or any interpersonal communication) by becoming extremely focused on self awareness.

When I was teaching Interpersonal and Public Speaking courses to college students, I told them that if there was nothing else they took from me – as an individual instructor (vs. what they are going to be able to regurgitate from a text book), was that to truly be an effective communicator, the strongest skill you can have is self awareness.

This is a topic that has many levels, so I am just going to touch on a few points that I hope will help you become more self aware… or at any rate cause you to say, “ah-ha, I’ve noticed my colleagues doing this or that; I wonder what I do; because here’s the thing – we all have quirks.

I am continuously adopting nuances and it can become frustrating; because once you have recognized something you do that probably needs to be filtered out, you create a whole new annoying habit.

So – here is a quick list of QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF if you can attempt to “step outside yourself” and reflect on the way you interact.

PRO-TIP: watch a Zoom meeting of yourself and take notes; just like a football team would go through the film of a game. Trust me, it’s not fun; I am often mortified when I go back and watch my tapes, but to get better, we have to do things that are uncomfortable.

Ask Yourself:

Am I able to describe to someone any of the habits I exhibit when I interact (socially or professionally)?
If you are able to step back and think about the way you communicate – that’s good! If you can’t, then it’s time to start using some serious brain power to be focused in each momentmso you an start to recognize your strengths and weaknesses.

When I’m in a sales situation, do I bring up “negatives” or “objections” that weren’t even on the table?
Often rookie sales reps feel like they want to answer questions that haven’t been asked, just because they either feel it’s important to the client, or they may be nervous and just can’t handle an uncomfortable silence. For example; if I were to be selling a piece of capital equipment, I might say – “And if it breaks, we’ll send you a replacement within 48 hours.” OK – well, the prospect might not have even been thinking that the product would break…. but now that you mention it, why would it break? Is the product crap?

Make sure to just answer the questions that are asked; there’s usually no need to bring up anything isn’t on the prospect’s mind. This point is also why I feel that those who feel they are not good at sales can still have a career in sales without being one of the natural talents. Most of the time, selling is a matter of confidently answering questions and forcing yourself to say, “and how would you like to pay for that?”

Do you I use a lot of verbal pauses or repetitive phrases when you communicate?
The classic verbal pause is “UM,” and I’m sure there is someone who comes top-of-mind to you right now as you think about who does this consistently. A lot of times individuals will start every sentence with “um,”; I try not to go bananas, but it definitely makes me crazy.

I know, however, that I have my own words and phrases that I use as verbal pauses; I definitely have room for improvement as well. For example, I know I consistently say, “SO….” You’ll even see me use it several times in my articles because as I write these, I am doing so as if I were speaking with you face-to-face. I always go back and delete several “so”s when I do a final proofread.

Some other popular verbal pauses include:
ya know (I had a college professor who said “ya know” so many times that one day I completely disregarded the lecture and spent the entire hour tallying the amount of times he said, “ya know”; I could not focus on anything else
and also (I have a personal vendetta against this one as it is a redundant statement, lol)

There are also verbal pauses that aren’t actually words; the one I’m thinking of is when people, “cluck/click” their tongue.

Verbal pauses are another aspect of your communication style you may not be aware of until you go back and watch video conferences of yourself with another person.

Does silence make me feel anxious?
Silence can make a lot of people feel extremely anxious. When you’re in a sales situation, try to keep in mind that the pause is likely a lot shorter than you feel it is in the moment, and there is a possibility that the prospect is just running the facts of your product/service in their mind. Silence is not always a bad thing, so avoid feeling the need to say something. Allow for both you and the prospect to breathe, think and provide space for them to ask more questions.

Do I lack vocabulary?
Sometimes individuals with an above average vocabulary may not portray this in an interpersonal situation for various reasons. What comes top-of-mind for me in this regard is the use of words, “stuff” and “things.”

It would not be uncommon to find yourself in a moment where you are trying to find the right word(s); but instead of using “stuff” or “things,” I would recommend being OK with taking a pause so you can find the word that fits the situation.

We are all professionals in a very specific market. Words like, “stuff” and “things” have the potential to give off the impression that you are not as experienced as one would expect when engaging with DPMs who use very specific jargon.

I consistently work on ensuring I am aware of the ways I communicate and why those habits may not be serving me or my goals. Keep in mind, these recommendations to become self aware is not the same thing as me telling you to change who you are. I have a personality that does not mesh with everyone; and that’s OK.

The difference, though, is that I know there are subconscious “flaws” in our communication styles that could be affecting our success – even with those whom we do connect.
Thoughts? Questions? Email Me!
Sarah Breymeier: beheard@podiatrymeetings.com

-Sarah Breymeier