Communication is at the core of what we as salespeople do. We have to find a prospect and then communicate who we are, what we do, how we can help them solve their problems or meet their wants and needs, and we have to do so in a manner that builds confidence, trust, and respect.
This should be a rational process-communicating factual information; demonstrating our trustworthiness by what we do, what we say, and the advice and guidance we provide the prospect; and putting the good of the prospect first.
As a rational process, we should be able to use logic, facts, and figures. Our trustworthiness should shine through based the actions our prospect sees. Our desire to seek what's best for the prospect should be easily discernable based on the quality of our guidance and recommendations.
If only it were that easy.
Many of us make a critical mistake when we assume that our prospect hears what we're saying and sees what we're doing.
Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Prospects see and hear what they want to see and hear.
Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the current presidential campaign. There are hundreds of examples of people hearing and seeing what they want to hear and see, not what is actually being said or done.
Although I go on all day with examples, let me give a couple of examples, one from each campaign:
Pigs and Lipstick. Everyone has seen the clip of Obama discussing the policies of John McCain during a campaign stop where he stated that you could put lipstick on McCain's (i.e, Bush's) policies and you'd still have a pig.
Within context it is obvious that Obama wasn't speaking about Sara Palin. He was speaking about the policies of John McCain. But the reactions to this statement are very interesting.
The reactions of the Obama supporters at the event were the exact opposite of what Obama intended by the statement. They began to laugh uproariously as soon as the word lipstick comes out of Obama's mouth. They immediately thought the statement was going to be an attack on Palin-because that's what they wanted to hear. They didn't hear what Obama said; they heard what they wanted to hear.
Likewise, many of those opposed to Obama heard the same thing-an attack on Palin that didn't exist-again, because that's what they wanted to hear.
McCain and Economics. McCain has had the same issue arise with his comment that he wasn't as well versed in economics as some other areas. He never said he didn't know anything about economics, he said he didn't know as much about economics as he did other areas.
As with the Obama statement, the video clip makes it very evident the meaning of his words.
Many who oppose him didn't hear his statement. What they heard was that he doesn't know anything about economics-again, they heard what they wanted to hear.
In both of the above instances there are those who honestly misunderstood the comments. There are certainly others who intentionally misunderstand them and have twisted them for their own use.
Both men sought to communicate in a relatively straightforward manner. McCain made a simple assertion that he didn't know as much about economics as other subjects. Obama used a common expression that at one time or another most all of us have used.
It can be argued that both men's speech was ill conceived. McCain should have known admitting he wasn't as well versed in economics as other areas would open him up to criticism. Obama's use of the lipstick on a pig expression was ill timed due to Palin's joke at the Republican convention.
But McCain and Obama are trying to communicate with other humans-and doing so with thousands of words everyday. As such, each will find words coming out their mouths that are less than optimal to advance their respective causes. Although both have speech writers, both must speak extemporaneously-and that can be dangerous ground for a presidential candidate-or a salesperson.
Each must take great care to phrase their statements precisely, to insure their statements are placed within a context that fully explains them and insulates them from being misunderstood.
We face the same obstacles Obama and McCain face. We have prospects who hear what they want to hear, not what we say, who see what they want to see, not what we do.
"But," you say, "they're dealing in politics where listeners have pre-conceived ideas and agendas. I'm selling copiers."
That's precisely the point. Our prospects and clients also have pre-conceived ideas. They also have agendas. They also hear what they want to hear, see what they want to see.
Just as with McCain and Obama, we must be vigilant in our discussions with prospects and clients. Fortunately, our job is easier. McCain and Obama must understand and appeal to their immediate audience while formulating their words for a much larger audience that is present only via the eye of the camera and the microphone of the recorder.
That being said, we, like them, must be intimately tuned into our audience. We must understand our prospect's pre-conceived ideas and agendas if we want our words and our actions to communicate what we want to communicate, not what they want to hear or see.
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