Communication is critical to selling and while part of communication is about talking, the most important part of communication is understanding what is being conveyed. So, for our purposes in sales, we are going to define communication as the process of creating understanding between two people.
We know that if you are sharing information with a prospect about a piece of equipment and they don’t understand how what you are saying meets their needs, they will smile, ask for a brochure and walk out the door. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Why do some people understand us, while others don’t? The reason for that is quite simple — different people need information presented in different ways.
One of the biggest mistakes average salespeople make is assuming that every person they communicate with is like them. Let’s face it, if every person that wanted to buy from you was exactly the same as you, it would make selling a simple task. All you would need to do is be yourself, say what would make sense to you and prospects would hand over their money.
However, most salespeople are only able to close about 25% of the prospects they talk with. This closing rate is not based on their skill set or their passion for the industry, but their ability to clearly communicate to the decision-maker. It’s that simple. If you understand how a customer wants to receive information, then you will close more sales.
Understanding Learning Styles
Now let’s apply this thought to ourselves. Pretend I am your manager and I want to teach you something that will help you make more sales. It’s something you will need to learn quickly because I am only going to share the information one time.
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With that in mind, would you rather that I show you how to do it, tell you what to do or let you experience something new? What would work best for you? If you said, I would prefer you show me, then you would be a person who understands best using a visual context.
At that point, I would adjust my presentation to utilize pictures or physically walk up to the unit and show you the changes you need to understand.
If you prefer that the information is explained verbally, you understand best using an auditory context. Showing you something would have little impact. What would work best for you is to explain, in a conversational way, the changes that have been made and allow you to ask questions.
However, if you would rather sit on the unit to get a feel for the changes, you are more comfortable using a kinesthetic context. Showing or saying things to you will not have the same impact as you getting on the unit.
Applying Learning Styles
Each of us learns about our environment through our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. For most of us sight, sound and touch make up our primary learning processes. The prospects that walk into your dealership everyday are there at some level to learn either about you, your dealership or the product you sell. Some customers that come into your dealership will learn and understand better if you show them, still others will understand better if you explain things to them verbally and yet others will only understand by experiencing the products.
We really can’t ask people about their learning styles because most of us are not aware of how we learn. However, you can get some clues about their style by watching their face and body movements; listening to the pace of speaking; and paying attention to the words they use when asking and answering questions.
Here are more details about the four learning styles to help you better communicate with your customers.
Visual learners learn through seeing something, either as picture, by actually standing in front of it, or as a word painting in their mind. You may hear them say things like, “This is what I am looking for.” “This is what I have seen my friends riding.” “From what I have seen, this seems to be the right machine for me.” They may also say things like, “Looks good.” “I’ve seen that before.” “Show me again how that works.” “This opened my eyes.”
You can also tell a person is visual by their body movements. When visual people talk, they tend to move their arms to the sides of their bodies because they're trying to show you the big picture. Visuals tend to speak fast, because a picture is worth a thousand words and they have a visual picture in their mind they are trying to explain to you. And, finally as you ask them questions, you will notice that visual prospects will tend to move their eyes up toward their top of their head as they think about the response they will be giving you. So, if you are working with a prospect and ask, “How's your day going today?” You will notice they quickly look up and then back to you and respond.
Let's talk about our next group of prospects. We refer to them as auditory learners. Auditory people process information based upon sound. You can tell a person is auditory by words and phrases they use. You might hear them say something like, “I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the products you sell,” or “From what I have been hearing, I think the products you sell are the best fit for me.”
Their body movements provide other clues. You will find that while the visuals move their hands to their sides, the auditory prospect will tend to move their hand more in front of their body. When it comes to their voice, they talk fairly fast, like the visual, but the big difference is when they need to think about something, they will stop talking, but continue to make sounds and noises, like “ums” and ahs.” They are not really saying words, but engaging their mind through the sounds they are making.
Just as the visuals tend to move their eyes upward when asked a question, auditory learners will move their eyes toward their ears, either left or right. When you ask them, “How’s your day going?” the auditor learner will quickly look toward their ears, pause, make a sound, like an “um,” and then say something like, “Good!”
At that point you know that you should focus your conversation toward the auditory side of your sale and don’t jump in saying, “So what are you looking to find today,” but rather, “Tell me a little bit about what brought you into our store.”
The third group is called kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic prospects process their information based on upon their touch or their feeling about your products. They may say things like, “I’m trying to get a feel for what you have to offer.” Or “I was riding with a friend and really loved how your product handles.” A kinesthetic learner will make their decision more on how something makes them feel, not on what they see or what you say. By making adjustments to your words and presentation, you will begin to create strong communication and understanding with your kinesthetic prospect.
When it comes to body movements, this style tends to keep their hands and arms closer to their body. Their pace of voice tends to be a little slower than the visual or auditory learner. When you ask a question that requires thought, the kinesthetic prospect will pause, look down and say nothing. Once they have a response, they will look back up and give you the answer to your question.
You will also notice that while the visuals look up, the auditory look to their ears, the kinesthetic will tend to look down. It’s important when presenting to a kinesthetic that you don’t spend a lot of time with direct eye contact, because it will make them feel very uncomfortable. While it’s perfect for the visual, it will become a distraction for your kinesthetic prospect.
So, if you are working with a kinesthetic learner, you might look down and ask, “How would you feel if we could get this process wrapped up so you could take delivery on your product later today?” At that point, you will find the kinesthetic would look down, pause with no sound, think about your question and then look up and hopefully say, “I feel like this is the right choice for me.”
Does it take some practice to get good at reading a prospect’s learning style? Of course it does, but if you have made the decision to enter the world of sales, why not take the time and commit to practicing and honing your skills?
Another point to keep in mind is that few people are only visual, auditory or kinesthetic. Most of us use some blend or combination as we learn and gather information. Keep in mind that you are working to uncover the prospect’s dominant learning style.
Again, the key is listening to what the prospect is saying and how they are saying it. Work to pick out the language cues they give you that will help you do a better job in clearly communicating the value of both your product and your dealership.