You know those people who stop you in the store to sell you a product that’s not normally carried on their shelves?
That was me.
Hundreds of interactions a day in multiple markets over the span of a year… let’s just say I’ve seen as close to “it all” as one person can. And, while I would never go back to that type of role, I learned and sharpened so many skills that I still use today when consulting with big corporate and start-up clients.
To date, no experience has taught me more about interpersonal communication than my direct sales job.
Here are the four biggest takeaways from my experience in direct sales that translate across industries and functions. Use them to help guide your interpersonal conversations:
Gauging the Temperature of a Room
Now, I’m not talking about the actual temperature, but what is the temperament of the people in the room? What kind of vibes are you picking up? Do people seem to be in a hurry? Are several people voicing the same frustrations? Is there something going on nearby that’s distracting people? Some people are more intuitive than others, but by simply being aware and asking yourself these questions you can acquire this skill, as well.
Reading Body Language
There are some obvious signs you can look for to know if someone is uninterested in what you have to say like checking their phone or watch or tapping their foot. Then, there are some more subtle signs like not opening their body up to you (being slightly turned away), crossed arms, avoiding eye contact, and giving very short responses to name a few. There are also positive signs to know someone is following along with you like head nods, emotional responses, giving detailed answers or asking questions.
Thinking on Your Feet
The biggest trick here is knowing your product (or material) inside and out. You truly have to be an expert so you’re ready for any outlandish questions that come your way. Also, being positive and believing you have the skills to find the answer if you don’t know it off the top of your head. It’s similar to the concept of “fake it ‘til you make it.”
Asking for the Close
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “always selling.” That’s forced and a bit false to me, but when you do engage in a sales conversation, you must close! Get a hard yes or no. That habit now translates to always having a call-to-action in writing, presentations, and even on social media.
This may seem like common sense, and that’s because it is.
There’s no secret sauce to being a good communicator. Like any other skill, you have to practice and consciously work on improving.
It took 2,000 hours on the sales floor for me to master these skills.