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What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate!

I love to journal about interview experiences I’ve had, because they’ve given me some great insights about relating to others in a sales situation. Whether the interview went well for me or I completely bombed, I still come away with a lot of great lessons.

Take, for example, a series of phone interviews I had with a small electric utility-related software developer a few years ago. The first was with the VP of Sales, which went very well, and the same could be said for the follow up session with his boss, the Senior VP of Client Relations. Both posed questions along the lines of “tell me about a time that you…” and I would respond with my “Problem-Action-Result” answers (referred to as PARs in interview preparation parlance), which were met with decisive approval.

Red flags sprouted up in the next phase of the evaluation process, though, when my interviewers requested that I participate in a ‘mock’ sales situation via three-way video conference to gauge my adeptness at handling an ‘actual’ sales scenario. That the words ‘mock’ and ‘actual’ were used in the same sentence to describe this seemed odd, but since I was riding the positive momentum from our previous conversations, I thought this exercise might be a fun and engaging way for me to showcase my selling talents to my future bosses. I received the details in advance, learning that one of my interviewers would be playing the customer decision-maker and the other would be my internal, trusted “advocate.” As instructed, I put together a detailed, comprehensive presentation on how I was going to land the deal and sent them my presentation several days before our call.

I kicked it off by asking whether they liked the presentation I’d sent, and both replied they hadn’t had time to review it. Then, due to an unexplained technical difficulty on their end, we weren’t able to use video conferencing for the ‘mock’ scenario. Despite the handicap, they insisted we didn’t need a video connection and should continue with the exercise.

As I presented my case, my interviewers debated virtually every marketing and sales strategy point I presented, complaining that I was not “checking in” with them regularly to get their reactions.

You can imagine my frustration, as I reminded them that communication between customer and supplier (or between any two people, for that matter) has many non-verbal components. Albert Mehrabian, in his book Silent Messages, claims 93 percent of our communication is expressed non-verbally: 38 percent tone of voice and 55 percent body language.

I was missing out on more than half of our communication, which made picking up on most of their reactions nearly impossible.

Sometimes there’s no getting around the need to rely on conference calls, emails, text, and virtual work across time zones. Effective communication is essential for the care and nurturing of all relationships, though, both personal and professional. In the context of effective marketing and sales strategies, it is important to remember that it is not just what you say, but how you say it and what visuals you use to deliver your message. Plan accordingly.

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