How to get more sales and build your communication skills

There are several reasons a business owner will start their own business: autonomy, independence, opportunity, or just a love of their product. But very few people start their own business because they’re great at sales. And business owners soon learn that a vital piece of their business’s success relies on making sales – whether that’s getting people in the door of their shop, networking in the community, or even making cold calls.

Anyone who has ever worked in sales will tell you that a great conversation is the key to success. But whether you went to business school or not, you probably have never been offered a class in having great conversations. The way you speak with prospective customers can impact not only the first sale, but their loyalty and lifetime of spending money with you.

We’re breaking down 10 communication fundamentals to help business owners earn more revenue. It has less to do with what you do and more to do with the person you’re talking to.

1. Break the ice

Lead with small, simple questions or a compliment to warm the person up to you. Their guard will be up knowing that you’re trying to sell them something, so avoid starting with anything close to a sales pitch. For brick and mortar stores, a simple “what brings you in today?” will get you a lot further than “can I help you?” which is often met with a no thanks. And once you ask a question…

2. Listen

One mistake made by people focused on the sale is talking too much. You want to give the other person a chance to get comfortable with you, and they’ll tip you off to vital information that you might not learn otherwise while they do so. Before you hop into that long story they reminded you of, take a breath and give them the chance to talk first.

3. Think twice before you make that joke

If you’re considering making a joke about current events or a divisive topic like a politician – hold your tongue. You have no idea where the person you’re talking to is from or what their friends and family believe. Keep topics as neutral as possible. It’s cliché, but you can always talk about the weather, ask if they’re doing anything fun for the next holiday, or compliment their shoes.

4. Stay positive

For some people, it’s easy to find the negative in situations. Try to find the light in whatever you’re talking about to keep up good spirits. But, if the person has shared something truly sad with you, it’s fine to empathize; “That must be so hard, I’m sorry to hear that” goes a long way in bringing someone closer to you.

two business women having a pleasant conversation

5. Don’t interrupt

Some people are more prone to interrupting than others; it can be difficult when you want to get your point across to not try to take advantage of a silence or lull in the other person’s speaking. If you do step on the toes of the other person, give a quick apology and ask them to go ahead – and listen.

6. Be succinct

When you do move to the part of the conversation where you’re pitching what you sell or do, keep it quick. Practice your elevator pitch so you can say in 30 seconds or less what you think would be helpful for them to know. If they’re interested, they’ll give you cues to keep going or ask questions.

7. Ask questions

Once you’ve given the first pitch, wait to go into the details. Instead, ask questions like, “does that make sense?” or “can you see how that would help?” to bring the other person into the pitch. Based on what they say, you can identify the details or anecdotes that make sense to share to help get them on board.

8. Ask for a commitment

In person this might look like “would you be interested in taking this home/getting started today?” But for phone conversations, it’s even more important to know where you stand. Ask not only for a timeline of when they expect to make a decision, but also for buy-in of when you can follow up. If they say they plan to decide in a month, ask if you can give them another call in three weeks to check in and see if new questions came up. Then put it on your calendar and follow through.

Three women talking

9. Make an offer

If it seems that they could make a purchase today but aren’t sold, don’t be afraid to make them an offer to sweeten the deal – but again, keep the tone helpful and conversational, not salesy. “I wanted to let you know that through Thursday we’re giving 15% off your first month” or “I can include delivery for free if you buy today” will get you across the finish line.

10. Don’t stop at the sale

One way to break trust is to seem to not care about your customer once they sign the check. For big purchases, consider giving them a quick call a week later to check in on how it’s working and thank them for their business. For SaaS buys, check in to see if they have any questions and introduce the buyer to their support agent and check in in a few months. Being involved in the handoff helps build that relationship for life.

It’s okay if you aren’t the best communicator when you go into business. Like any skill, it takes time and practice. But taking the step to be uncomfortable and get yourself into communication situations is the best way to grow as a conversationalist.