In last week’s online class, I mentioned the four diamonds of communication, and I want to expand on them here. In our book, Profitable Sales; A Contractors Guide, I refer to these jewels as the “Basic Conversation Rules.”
If you’re wondering why I’m talking about sales in the middle of a public health crisis that is threatening your business, I want to remind you that first of all, we will get through this. There will be a day when your phone will ring again and the public will need your services because they’re still living in homes. Use any downtime to educate yourself and hone your skills for that day.
Second, sales is about communicating and interacting positively with others, and those skills are used in many situations in life. They make life easier when you’re in any delicate or touchy conversation, and we’re at high risk for those in today’s climate.
May I ask a kindness?
Vito Corleone used that phrase often in the movie “The Godfather.” That might not sound like a great recommendation, but asking for a kindness is much more positive than asking for a favor.
When you’re asked to do a favor, it’s easy to tune out the speaker before they even finish the sentence. Don Corleone figured that out and as the head of a large organization, he often needed help. What better way to get the other person’s attention and cooperation than asking for a kindness?
Asking for a kindness is assuming the other person is good enough to be kind. They usually are, and almost always respond positively.
Would you share with me?
This phrase, used at the right time, can open the door to questions that might have been awkward or felt impossible. A good example in a sales situation would be, “John and Mary, may I ask a kindness? Would you share with me the reasons you have for wanting to remodel your . . . ” You’ve taken the edge off a question that might have been seen as too personal.
This phrase can be a game changer as you work through the four basic questions on a sales call, especially when you get to the budget. “John, Mary, May I ask a kindness? Would you share with me the budget range you have in mind for your project?” Follow that with the qualifying phrase, “I’m not asking you if you know what the project will cost; I know you don’t know that number. I don’t know what it will cost either until we complete the design for this project. What I am asking about is your budget. Would you share that with me?” Then close your mouth so they can answer.
Let me tell you how we work.
We’ve all run into clients who read online, or heard from a neighbor, or got advice from their brother-in-law on how to deal with those money-grubbing contractors. They might say, “I want all the contractors to come up with a design for this job so we can pick the design we like. Then you can all bid on it.” Or they might inform you that they intend to furnish all the materials on their job. Maybe they’ll tell you their wife’s brother Billy Bob is going to do all the electrical work on the job.
You might ask for clarification. “Is Billy Bob a licensed electrician?” or “Why do you want to go to all the time and trouble of selecting, purchasing and arraigning for transportation of the materials for this job?” It helps to know their motivation, but don’t let those comments get away from you. Those are red flags, and you need to gently but clearly establish your ground rules. You need to draw a line in the sand before going much further regarding what you are or aren’t willing to do as a construction company. “John, Mary, let me tell you how we work.”
A variation is, “Just so there is no misunderstanding, this is how we build our jobs.” Both are effective phrases that help you make the transition to a gentle explanation on how the cow ate the cabbage. If you don’t establish your ground rules, they’ll assume their statements are acceptable and they’ll be dictating how you work throughout the job. That seldom turns out good for you.
Of course you’ll need to be prepared to enforce your company policies. If they don’t agree or like how you work, you’re free to walk away. You’ll quickly find out what kind of customer you’re dealing with, and it’s better to find out before you waste a lot of time and energy putting together a job that will be trouble from day one.
Is that fair enough?
After you communicate how you work, finish it with the statement, “Is that fair enough?” This encourages cooperation. What the listener hears is, “they are going to be fair with me so I must be fair with them.” It can also defuse a contentious discussion when used properly.
If you think about it, we are taught from an early age to be fair with others. Everyone wants to be fair. I know my parents watched my siblings and I carefully to be sure we treated each other fairly, and most parents do the same. So if you see the red on the customer’s neck start to creep north, it is time to diffuse the situation and see if the phrase “is that fair enough” can calm things down.
Four phrases we’ve tagged the “Four Diamonds of Communication”. They work. Give them a try and you’ll be amazed at how well they assist you in communicating with your customers and others.
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