Communication — The must-have soft skill

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

If you are a human being on planet earth the most critical skill that you can know is how to communicate with others. That is why there is a push for those who are deaf to learn how to sign, or for those who are blind to learn how to read braille. We as a species focus on communication, and that is because socializing is such a critical component of our makeup.

That said do we do it effectively? Or do we do it the wrong way? If you talk to people who have worked in customer-facing roles for the majority of their professional lives versus someone who never worked a customer-facing position you will find that there are different ways to communicate. There are subtle differences.

Someone who works apart from day-to-day interactions with customers is more likely to be a bit more blunt and to the point where people who constantly work with people will be a bit more nuanced and a bit more verbose in how they speak to others.

Neither way is particularly wrong, but as someone who has gone from being customer-facing for over a decade (closer to two if I am being honest) I can tell you that while the way that I communicate may drive some folks nuts, the folks who have been on the retail or customer-facing side know what I am talking about, and honestly I think that being a bit more verbose, and nuanced is actually a good thing.

Here are a few examples:

xample One: You are trying to sell your boss on trying to implement new features that are a bit out of scope for the project that you are working on but they would better suit the end-user. You have to sell the idea, and you need their buy-in prior to putting in the time and effort. In this example, you are having to do a soft sell. You will have had to put together a presentation, and hard data to show your superior how it would generally increase consumer happiness, and increase potential sales of the project that you are working on. While it is outside the general scope the aim is to increase consumer happiness which is always a metric that companies are highly in tune with. But your communication style is not going to be like 10 words, it is going to be a bit more drawn out because you are presenting to your superior. You are selling.

xample Two: Your coworker has just been assigned to work with you, and has vastly different ideas on how to accomplish the same task that you have already been working on. If you are terse and blunt you know it will devolve into an argument, so instead, you have to win your coworker onto your side, the more eloquently that you can communicate the reasoning behind the way that you are doing things the more likely it is that they will fall in line and jump on your bandwagon doing things your way. Again this is in part selling but that is the point.

In everyday life, we are selling people's ideas and trying to bring them to our side of seeing and doing things. If you understand that and have the skills to do it your everyday life will be far easier than if you do not know or understand how to do it. It seems stupid and simple but it really does make sense.

Let's use the simple model of selling:

Meet & Greet: Yes. Literally saying hi is part of selling. How you meet and greet someone impacts the entire interaction, keep that in mind, and make sure that you make a positive impression, and set the tone so that the other person is receptive to what you are saying.

Understand Needs: If you do not understand what that person needs to be won over then you have already lost. Everyone needs something out of interactions. For some it is validation, for others it is commiseration. It could even be just honest feedback on a mistake. But in every single conversation, there is a need that is being or should be addressed.

Present the Options: When you are talking to someone then need to feel like you are taking them seriously, and your job is to communicate that. Part of doing so is to present both sides of the situation to them so that they can make an educated decision. How you say things, what words you use are key here. If you do not know what I am talking about look up a concept called Words, Music, Dance.

This concept goes over every aspect of your actions while communicating with others, and should be a standard for everyone who interacts with other human beings every day!

Soft Close: The soft close is the start of asking for a sale, it is almost more an insinuation instead of outright asking someone to buy something. You are saying hey I showed you all of the cards, are you ready to pull the trigger and finish this? You ask for it, but you don't. It is honestly still after 10 years a bit hard to explain in a text form. It is far easier to demonstrate but I would rather not fill out 1000 + words doing a mock sale. Perhaps one day but not today.

Handle Objections: You will always get objections. It's too expensive, it's not a need it's a want, what have you. You will always get them. My favorite was I need to call my husband/wife. I would hand them my phone and say go for it, I would be happy to answer any question that they might have. It didn't always work but it certainly made the point that I was serious about gaining their business. You have to be very clear about the benefits to them and work through any objections someone might have. If you do not do this step effectively and efficiently you will lose the interaction.

Hard Close: This is where things get a bit sketchy. You see it is one thing to soft sell. When you do a hard close you are a bit more blunt, to the point, and even mildly aggressive. You see now you have gone through the motions and worked through everything they want and need, and you have gone over all of their objections. Either they are wasting your time and are what are referred to as tire kickers, or they are ready to buy, and since in sales we always assume that everyone is a buyer, then we need to ask for the sale, and we need to do it right.

“I have answered all of your questions, shown you how this is in your best interest, and I have gone through every issue that you had with the idea. I need to know flat out are you on board with this or am I wasting my time here?”

Being this blunt is a bit more aggressive than a ton of salespeople would want to be, but given that I am a fairly high energy and intense personality this style has always worked for me. Did not matter if it was cell phones or if it was selling cars hitting someone with a hard sell after going through the process almost always resulted in a buy. Not always, but more often than not. That said, if you screw it up it will backfire and they will walk away.

Now we have gone through ALL of this. What is the point? The point is that communication, and the way that you present things directly impact the response that you will get, and if you handle every single interaction in a strict framework that forces you to progress through the conversation in a very predictable way, the better off you will be. You will have more time to think out responses, and you know that you are being polite, but assertive, and you need to be able to do both. You need to be both dominant and submissive in conversations, it's the ebb and flow of natural speech. You talk, and you let the other person talk.

Now in closing, I want to give you the final key. When you hit someone with a hard sell you need to do one thing, and one thing only. SHUT UP! The first person who talks after a hard sell loses. Almost every time that I spoke immediately after a hard sell attempt I lost that sale, and every time I shut up and waited for them to think and then speak I locked it in. It obviously is not 100% but it is very predictable and you get to the point where you know what to look for and what to avoid. If you get specific responses then you know someone is wasting your time, and you know when you have someone sold, but you need to still go through the motions to make sure that you don't screw it up by missing or skipping steps.

Sell your ideas, sell you, and sell your winning personality. You are your own product both in the workplace and at home. By balancing selling someone on an idea, and shutting up and listening to their objections to your ideas you will certainly win more arguments at the very least.

Full Stack Web Development Student — Lambda School