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The Benefits and Pitfalls of Gamification for Sales Team Training

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Gamification, or making ordinary training practices into interactive employee games, is a popular trend sweeping offices throughout the nation. While there are proven benefits to gamification for sales training, such as making training fun and more memorable, it also has significant pitfalls, such as distracting your employees and reducing productivity. It’s up to you to compare the pros and cons before deciding if it’s the right course for your business.

 

Good: Better Employee Engagement

Gamification increases engagement for your employees. It’s no secret that almost every business can benefit from more energetic and determined workers. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that as many as 70 percent of employees in the United States don’t feel engaged in their jobs.

LiveOps did a study about adding game elements to reward its employees. The single change actually shortened call times by as much as 15 percent, increased sales by 8 percent, and increased customer satisfaction by 9 percent.

 

Bad: It Can Be too Generic

If you don’t make the efforts to create a thoughtful and customized plan, you could actually be doing more harm than good. Generic enterprise gamification just slaps point systems and badges onto any process instead of putting emphasis onto the ones that matter. In fact, as much as 80 percent of gamification efforts will fail because of this.

 

Good: Encouraging Progress

Gamification also provides immediate signs of progress and achievement. Employees get many smaller rewards that help track their progress and show their rankings to colleagues and supervisors. This keeps them motivated to always move forward and strive for improvement.

 

Bad: Mandating Drains the Fun

The point of gamification is to encourage workers to play games and have fun. Forcing everyone to partake defeats the purpose. Unfortunately, many employers make this mistake and end up making their workers resent the changes that were supposed to make them happier.

 

Good: Filtering the Best Employees

A gamified workplace also allows the best and brightest employees to shine. The people who make the most progress will stand out. This opens up an entire new platform for recognition and can help businesses pick out good employees.

 

Bad: It Can Cause Discord

People are unavoidably competitive. Gamification creates an outlet for workers to try to cheat their way to the top. This can cause personal issues between employees as they try to scrabble toward progress and rewards.

There are disadvantages to gamification, of course, but with careful planning and implementation, it can be a vital tool for encouraging engagement in the workplace.

Could Accepting Cash Payments Positively Influence Your Buyers?

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A study published in December 2016 by the International Journal of Central Banking reports that despite electronic payment systems’ integration around the world, customers still prefer to pay with cash. The study found that despite the switch from paper money to “bitcoins,” cash holding and use have not disappeared. Some companies rely on electronic systems exclusively, but this decision could be costing them.

The Study

According to the study, cash is the primary payment for customers across seven major countries. Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States are all proven to prefer physical money. In the United States alone, 46 percent of transactions rely on cash – and America uses it less than the other six on the list.

Interestingly, France and the U.S. are the only two out of the seven where paper checks are still relevant. Meanwhile, Germans and Austrians carry and use the highest amount of cash. Across the other five countries, the average consumer kept only $30 on them at any time.

Many experts attribute these cash-carrying habits to the fact that paper money is primarily used for multiple small transactions throughout the day. This also explains why it comprises such a small amount of total transaction value in other countries

Benefits of Using Cash

Some people see using cash as an inconvenience, but it affords a lot of benefits for both the individual and society as a whole. Bloomberg reported excerpts from the same study, finding that the value of dollars and euros has more than doubled since 2005. This is largely due to people continuing to carry and spend cash, although some of it may also be due to a demand for currencies in foreign countries.

Another benefit of using cash is that people value their money more. Consumers get a better sense of the “value” of their dollars when they physically have to hand them over during a transaction. This can actually be a key way of learning how to control spending.

Accepting Cash

The numbers don’t lie. With 46 percent of transactions in America relying on cash, can you really afford not to accept it? The more checkout choices you offer, the more likely it is you’ll draw in more customers and close those deals. Bitcoins and debit cards are interesting, and they may play a bigger part in the future of retail, but for now cash is still king.

How to Keep Up With the Competition

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In a business atmosphere that’s adapting to new technologies and consumer demands at a faster pace than ever before, it’s no surprise sales tactics are also changing. Salespeople in modern business must periodically analyze their performance, identify weak points, and learn new sales techniques based on changing customer needs. If you want your employees to be their best, they need to be ready to adapt.

The Five Forces of Change

There are five main forces that drive change for sales people: the threat of new people and competition, suppliers’ bargaining power, competition among existing firms, negotiating power of the buyers, and the threat of substitute services and products.

  1. Competition among salespeople. Marketing and inside sales roles have been consistently expanding and eroding the position of the B2B outside salespeople. In turn, this has sparked a golden age for inside the salespeople, but makes positions much more competitive for the outside salesperson.
  1. The threat of new entrants. There are always advancements changing the entire industry. Job automation is the biggest challenge right now as artificial intelligence, robotics, and virtual/augmented reality are switching up the game. It takes polished skill to compete with technical advancements for both inside and outside salespeople.
  1. Threat of salespeople substitutes. Self-service and e-commerce advancements are putting more pressure on B2B sales.
  1. Bargaining power of the buyers. In this area of customer power, salespeople have very little influence and control. Success is dependent on adaptability.
  1. Bargaining power of the suppliers. It’s easy for even the smallest businesses to get supplies from across the world. Although it offers more opportunities, it also means salespeople have to work with more and more business partners. Being able to bargain with other companies may determine whether or not you keep a comfortable arrangement.

 

Preparing for Change

Even though the world is always changing, there are ways salespeople can prepare for whatever the future holds. One of the best ways to keep up with the crazy pace is by taking sales training courses from SNI. We always build the programs based around the current market trends so you’ll have exactly what you need.

Sales training courses from SNI are engineered to teach you how to adjust to these five factors of change, plus give you an edge over your competition. When your livelihood is on the line, you need to be able to roll with the punches, stay current, and prove to your customers that you’re the best around. Period.

How to Influence High-End Clients

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Many business owners are so preoccupied with the task of acquiring more customers, they stop attracting the right customers. Even in the world of retail and services, sometimes quality is much more important than quantity. For many small and large businesses, high-end clients can significantly boost monthly revenue, profitability, and growth. All you need to do is know how to reach and influence them.

Step One: Mindset

Before you can start bringing in those premium clients, you must be mentally prepared. It’s not enough to just want to bring them in. You also have to believe in yourself and your product and stop any negative thoughts before they even begin. “I can’t imagine charging such a high price,” or “Who am I to work with these high-end people?” are the sort of phrases you should avoid at all costs. Identify and dispose of those thoughts, or you could end up limiting yourself from the beginning.

 

Step Two: Build a Customer Profile

Before you can target your ideal customer, you must know who they are. Building a customer profile will allow you to put yourself in their shoes and think about the sort of products and services they need and how to market to them.

Draft at least one profile (more are better), complete with demographics of the customer to whom you want to appeal. Age, income, sex, location, industry, emotional buying triggers, and company size are all things to consider. The more specific you are, the more thoroughly you’ll be able to understand their point of view.

 

Step Three: Create the Right Message

Now that you know who your ideal customers are and what they want, create a message that will appeal to them. It should communicate the feeling or ideal end-result your products or services offer. Remember, people make purchases based on their benefits and emotional appeal. Use the most effective angle for your customer profile

 

Choose Your Channels

Premium clients, in all likelihood, won’t be visiting the same channels as more mainstream consumers. Some will be reachable through online campaigns and traditional outlets, while others will rely primarily on referrals and networks. Think about how you’re likely to get to them, and focus your efforts there. It may take some mixing and matching to get the results you’re looking for, but, again, your customer profile will be helpful.

Planning ahead is the most important part of reaching premium clients. Put your effort into fine-tuning your understanding of your customers, and it’s sure to pay off.

Balancing Teamwork and Competition in a Sales Environment

Cameron Johnson

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When managing a sales team, you need to walk a very delicate line. On the one hand, you want every member of the team to have the motivation to make as many sales as possible. One of the most proven ways to motivate sales team members is by offering performance-based commissions and bonuses. On the other hand, you don’t want your sales team stabbing each other in the back to steal sales. Too much competition can lead to a toxic sales environment, which can have a severe, negative impact on your business.

To get the most out of your sales team without causing infighting, you need to promote both healthy competition and teamwork amongst your employees. There are a few ways you can create this type of atmosphere at your office.

1. Set Team Sales Goals with Bonuses

The easiest way to encourage your sales team to work together is to include a financial incentive for doing so. Set one or more sales goals for the team as a whole, and if they reach the goals, give everyone a bonus. When everybody benefits from the team’s success, team members are more likely to help each other out. It fosters an atmosphere of cooperation and communication rather than rivalry. Each team member also has additional motivation to do well, as no one wants to be the person who didn’t pull their weight and let the rest of the team down.

Just because you’re setting team goals doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of individual sales goals. You can still pay out bonuses or commissions to sales team members individually so they also stay focused on their own success

2. Schedule Regular Meetings

One problem with many organizations is that each salesperson is isolated from their peers, so it can be difficult for team members to develop a feeling of camaraderie. You can mitigate this by calling the entire sales team in for regular meetings to go over their results, goals, and any concerns that they have.

Meetings are also an excellent opportunity for sales team training, which many organizations overlook. Continuous training is great for sales employees and your company, as it’s shown to result in 50 percent higher net sales per employee. Despite the enormous benefits, the average company only invests $2,000 per year in sales training, despite spending about $10,000 to $15,000 on hiring each employee.

By training the sales team together, the team members have an opportunity to become more comfortable working with each other.This builds a more cooperative atmosphere, one where the entire team is working together.

3. Put Your Team in the Right Positions to Succeed

Every member of your sales team is going to have their own strengths and weaknesses. You’ll get better results and create a more positive atmosphere when you find ways to leverage each member’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

For example, you may have one employee who is excellent at initiating cold calls, while another is much better at breaking down the products or services that your company offers. Having these employees work in tandem, with the former gathering leads over the phone and the latter closing the deal by describing product features, could lead to far more sales than if they worked separately. At the same time, you could have these employees learn from each other so they are able to shore up their weak points.

It takes time to learn the best way to utilize your sales team. Consider their backgrounds, personalities, and education, and evaluate their performance metrics to get an idea of what each team member does best and where they struggle. As the manager, it’s your job to get the most out of every employee.

The first steps towards getting your sales team working together while still working hard is setting up team goals and holding meetings regularly. Then, take a deeper look at the skill sets of your sales team to help them reach their potential and succeed.

Success in International Negotiations

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We caught up with our Master Facilitator, Jeff Cochran, who recently returned from teaching negotiation training in (or designing programs for) Japan, Germany, Australia, Thailand, and Mexico. Our conversation made us revisit the theme of having success in international negotiations.

International negotiations can be daunting. There are differences across cultures to what constitute appropriate gestures, common greetings, and varying gender roles. These are important factors to consider when meeting a client for the first time, being introduced to new partners or engaging in negotiations. But, while varied formalities and language barriers can alter the content of negotiations and the path that it takes, at its core the process of preparing for negotiations does not vary from country to country, company to company, or person to person. The steps remain consistent, and following the 3 P’s –preparing, probing, and proposing—ultimately proves to be the most efficient and effective approach of getting what you want, while helping the other side get what they want.

 

Preparing for International Negotiations: In what culture is it wrong to prepare?

As SNI’s systematic approach demonstrates, preparation is always the first step to a successful negotiation. And when preparing for international negotiations, preparation may be even more important. Spending the time to find out how cultural norms differ and how to adapt to differences in dress, speech, and mannerisms will be the tip of the proverbial preparation iceberg.

So, the question is, how do we prepare for international negotiations? Is it different from traditional preparation? In many regards, preparation will be the same for international meetings; the negotiator should understand the other side’s position, its precedents, and its objectives. In the end, though, it boils down to being mindful of the changing environment in other countries and being adaptable by engaging in constant research (whether it be overt or merely observational) and preparation to make sure that every interaction is respectful and meaningful.

 

Probing in International Negotiations: Mehrabian’s Rule

Probing is similarly important and will often circle back to the necessity of more preparation to be able to probe better –and in a culturally and socially acceptable way. In interactions with new clients it is important to be aware of the other party’s perceptions of your mannerisms, tone, and appearance. This may be even more important in international settings where language may be a barrier; no matter what language one speaks, though, a raised voice has meaning and a smile will have an impact.

Albert Mehrabian, professor at UCLA, suggested a 7%-38%- 55% Rule, which says that 7% of communication is the actual spoken message –the words that are used; 38% of understanding is based on the tone of voice; and the remaining 55% of communication is based on a party’s understand of body language. This goes back to preparing; when probing, be aware of and prepared to deal with different ways and styles of answering, in addition to certain probing mechanisms that may or may not be appropriate in certain cultural or social situations. Prepare for these scenarios by learning customs and practices that will make sure communication start on, and stay on, the right foot. This can be done through formal research, but should be adapted by observing what others are doing and what affect their behavior has on immediate reactions and long-term relationships.

The systematic approach tells us to ask questions. Ask: “What’s important to you?” And then ask, “What else?” The way you ask these questions may not be the same across all international negotiations, but that is why we prepare.

 

Proposing in International Negotiations: Finding the Solution

In any negotiation, proposing a deal can have a successful or unsuccessful result. In some cases, an agreement can be reached, in others a middle ground simply cannot be found. Preparing and probing in an appropriate and meaningful way minimizes a negative or surprising reaction to a proposal from the other side. In the end, in international as well as domestic negotiations, it is important to be strategic when making proposals in order to not only maximize your solution but also maintain the constructive relationship you have established throughout the negotiation process.

 

Remember: Even the things that vary from culture to culture are minuscule in comparison to the things that tie us together. The expression of emotions manifests differently across cultures, but the feeling itself is the same, and it is those feelings – those innate human connections – that are the things that uncomplicate international negotiations. From a distance, impressions of other cultures may stray us away from utilizing a systematic approach to negotiations. For example, we may view the culture in Germany as serious and stern by nature. But, when the distance is reduced, and we can see that passion and excitement is simply shown differently. Jeff Cochran, SNI’s Master Facilitator, recalls a vivid display of passion and appreciation after his recent presentation in Germany. As he finished, the participants began banging on the tables – an outpouring of excitement and gratitude – from a group of people that might have been mislabeled previously.

Negotiations Training for Creatives

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Negotiations with customers take on an entirely different shape and form in creative industry businesses, but it’s just as (if not more) important. Creative products and services, such as paintings, photography, and handmade crafts, have unique value demands and artist’s compensation is often a gray area. It takes knowledge and skill to gain the maximum profit for your creative work without pushing away customers.

Mastering this kind of negotiation can seem more than a little intimidating – especially if you’re not confident about your pricing in the first place. However, if you keep these things in mind, you’ll stand out among competitors and earn the profit you deserve.

 

Do Your Research

The first step to negotiating is to be well informed. You need to know the ins and outs of appraisal techniques as well as comparable pricing from other artists. Remember that experience, rarity, application, and materials (among other things) all play a role in the total value of your products.

 

Be Confident

The quickest way to devalue your work is to second guess yourself. Take your time and crunch the numbers, then stand by them. Any time a client is haggling, they’re essentially arguing about the value of your work. Don’t be afraid to be flexible about special requests, delivery options, and other unique situations, but stay confident and firm with your pricing or others could take advantage of you.

 

Communicate Well and Listen

A negotiation is a two-way conversation. Any time one party takes over, all progress will be halted. It’s absolutely crucial that you listen to your customer’s ideas, questions, and concerns. You’re not just making a sale, you’re building a connection. Get your own points across, but pay attention to theirs, as well.

 

Show Your Worth

You know what they say – seeing is believing. You can’t expect customers to understand or agree to the value of your work if they aren’t familiar with any examples. You need some sort of gallery, whether it’s a mobile portfolio or a whole art studio for them to walk through. Show them the kind of quality they can expect and they’ll be less likely to haggle.

 

Build From Your Reputation

Negotiating will be more difficult in the beginning, but as your portfolio and customer service reputation grows, it will become easier. Clients may one day be fighting over your artwork regardless of the price. Stay motivated and determined – things can only get easier from here.

3 Benefits of Customized Negotiations Training

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One of the things that sets Shapiro Negotiations Institute apart from the competition is its customized negotiations training. SNI’s programs are tailored to each client’s individual needs. This helps you engage more with the negotiations training process and take away actionable tips for ways to improve business. There’s no reason to settle for a one-size-fits-all approach when you can have truly customized results and help your company stand out against the crowd.

The Benefits of Personalization

ROI always matters, so you’re probably wondering what exactly makes customized training so much better. There are three big advantages that come with a personalized plan:

  • Gaining an edge against the competition. Companies that choose off-the-shelf training styles will all have pretty much the same result. When customers work with your team, they’ll be able to spot the difference. The extra attention to detail and comprehensive experience will elevate your business and put you one step ahead of the competition.
  • Anyone and everyone can learn. When you choose predesigned training methods, you’re forcing everyone to conform to the same learning tactics. You may think this will save you time and effort, but, in reality, it makes it more difficult for some people to fully grasp the concepts. Each employee has a unique learning style, and only personalized plans can give you the flexibility you need to cater to their preferences. After all, you can’t judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree – why should you expect all your employees to build skills the same way?
  • Performance power. Many off-the-shelf negotiation training sessions do little more than teach employees a basic, single-dimension approach. They learn how to tackle example problems, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be prepared for more difficult situations. A customized training regimen, on the other hand, goes beyond just telling them what to say. The best programs will actually help them understand the art of negotiation on a more complex level. This means they’re better equipped to handle the unexpected. Chances are, they’ll be able to reason out any situation – not just the ones covered in training.

Negotiation is an important part of any company. It could make the difference between building and keeping connections and watching them turn to dust. When your business is on the line, don’t settle for subpar programs. Take your team to the next level with personalized training programs from SNI. Questions about how to get started? Call or email us today and see what we can do for you.

MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference

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This past month, SNI’s Master Facilitator, Jeff Cochran delivered a keynote speech to Medical Group Management Associates at the 2017 MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference is highly regarded and attended by medical practice professionals that go to enhance their financial education to advance the profession of medical practice management. Jeff’s keynote was entitled Negotiating: Strategies for Success. Since 1926, MGMA has created successful medical practices that provide the highest level of patient care through member benefits, education, resources, news, information, advocacy, and networking opportunities.

 

 

SNI’s approach to negotiations challenges traditional perceptions of approaching deals. Jeff spoke on the foundational teaching of Shapiro Negotiations Institute- The 3 P’s systematic method to managing negotiations: Prepare, Probe, and Propose. Through an interactive role play, Jeff taught attendees to cultivate long-lasting relationships with their counterparts by utilizing the 3 P’s correctly. The reactions from the conference attendees exhibit not only the charismatic delivery of Jeff, but, more importantly, how beneficial SNI’s Systematic Approach to Negotiating can be.

 

(Photo from https://twitter.com/MGMA)

 

We value all of the training feedback we recieve and were happy to hear from Kelly Mattingly, the Director of Contracting and Credentialing at Practice Velocity about her experience at MGMA:

 “I thought your talk was the most valuable session of the conference. You were entertaining, the topic was very relevant, and the hands on aspect was engaging. In my opinion negotiating is all about doing your research and finding your (and your opponent’s) strengths and weaknesses, knowing when to play your cards, and understanding who you are dealing with on the other end (because in my opinion…that may change my strategy entirely). I work in an industry where our negotiating leverage is pretty minuscule to non-existent. I was reminded to treat each negotiation as if I had more leverage than the last. I think sometimes when we are defeated often, we forget to reset …gain our confidence, and give the next negotiating opportunity an A+ effort. I won’t underestimate my strengths again, and I won’t talk myself down before I sit at the negotiation table. I look forward to hearing you speak again in the near future.”

 

Thanks again to MGMA for the great opportunity! 

A Look at Some of the Most Important Communication Skills for Almost Any Situation

Cameron Johnson

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When people are talking about successful people, others commonly speculate on how they achieved that success. Perhaps they were intelligent. They were innovative. They had the right connections or the right idea at the right time. Maybe they were just plain lucky. One of the most common descriptions of a successful individual, though, is that they are “great communicators.”

At Shapiro Negotiations, we talk a lot about developing an ability to communicate and even offer communication training. We can show you (and your team) how to be a better negotiator, a better salesman, a better communicator. But what does great communication really entail? What skills are involved in communicating clearly and effectively with someone, particularly with those who may not want to hear what you have to say?

In the following post, we’ll look into several important skills SNI can help you and your team to develop to improve your communications, both internally and externally.

1. Listening

Arguably the most important skill to acquire when you’re learning how to communicate well is how to be a good listener. And yet some people simply refuse to do it. People focus so intently on being heard and understood that they are simply incapable of understanding anyone else. Most people wait for their turn to talk rather than truly listen.

In the words of James Cash Penney, founder of the well-known J. C. Penney chain of department stores, “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” The first step in communication is for both parties to be speaking the same language. In order to do that, you need to be able to listen to and understand what the other person is saying. Anything else is just two strangers who may as well be shouting nonsense at each other, for all the good it will do.

When you listen to another person, that person will take notice. Attempting to understand what someone else wants grants them validation, permitting them to view you as a potential ally rather than an adversary. Suddenly, you aren’t two people fighting for opposing goals; you are two people who are working together to find an ideal situation for everyone involved.

2. Empathy

In almost any environment, you’re going to come across people you may not agree with. It’s just the way human interaction goes. Fortunately, you don’t have to agree with everyone on every single matter.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at least try to understand and respect other people’s opinions and points of view. This ties back into listening to the other person, and perhaps a step beyond. Hear what they other person is saying. Try to look beyond the words they are saying and find the meaning behind those words. Try to recognize what their reasons are for their belief. You don’t need to share the belief, but understanding from where their position stems will give you significant insight into how to keep the conversation civil and even productive.

Phrases like “I understand where you’re coming from” can demonstrate that you’re actively paying attention to the things the other person is saying. Actively acknowledge the emotions that the other party is feeling and you can reinforce the relationship you have been building.

The ability to discern and experience another person’s emotions will grant you the unique perspective of understanding both sides of the discussion. By seeing where both sides are coming from, you will be better able to predict where their goals intersect and guide the conversation to a successful solution.

3. Translation

While most of what we’ve discussed up to this point deals with understanding other people and discerning exactly what they want, it’s just as important to be able to make yourself understood. In order to be understood, you have to be able to take information and translate it into words and terminology familiar to someone else.

For example, a college professor has typically been studying his subject matter for years, if not decades. He understands the reasons behind all of the information he is teaching his students. He could take complex data and use it to analyze and predict results from future experiments.

His students, on the other hand, are new to the subject. They don’t have the benefit of his experience in his field or of his years of research. They don’t have the context he has gained over time as he has been exposed to his material. To get through to them, he has to figure out how to explain the material to them in words that they will understand.

The same is true in almost any sort of interaction. People live such radically different lives that some experiences familiar to one person might be completely foreign to another. Figuring out what words, phrases, or contexts will resonate with the other party will enable you to get your point across and be understood.

4. Clarity

Clarity is the ability to speak in such a way that people understand your meaning. “Say what you mean, and mean what you say,” as the old adage directs. Speak simply, speak clearly, and say exactly what you intend. Speaking in a roundabout fashion can be off-putting for several reasons, any of which can bring a negotiation to a crashing halt.

People have notoriously short attention spans. Most people are willing to grant a little bit of leeway, but if you drag on, eventually they’re just going to tune you out. You may be an expert on your subject material, but it won’t matter. If no one is listening, then does it really make a difference anymore what you say?

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are not precise or seem to talk in circles, it can discourage people from trusting you. If it’s difficult to make out what you’re saying, it may seem like you’re hiding something. If you are able to boil down a complicated concept into just a few words, on the other hand, it is a good sign that you really know what you’re talking about.

5. Body Language

The words you say to other people are only a portion of the way you communicate with them. The way you hold yourself, the way you move, where you look, and even the tone of your voice—all of these can contribute to the way your message is received. You may have had a conversation in the past where an upset party snapped, “It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it!” Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, proposes that there are three elements that account for how positively people respond to someone else’s communication. Only 7 percent of the response is based upon the other person’s words, while 38 percent is based on their tone of voice, and the remaining 55 percent is based on body language.

When interacting with others, be aware of the subtle signals you may be sending to people. Avoiding eye contact gives off a sense that you are either uninterested or are hiding something. Staring, on the other hand, can make people uncomfortable. Standing too closes seems overly aggressive, while turning your body away from the other person can make you seem aloof.

By presenting yourself in a more open fashion, you can encourage others to let down their guards a little bit and be more open with you in return. Pay attention to your hand gestures, whether or not your arms are crossed, even the subtle noises you make in acknowledgment of what someone else has said.

At the same time, keep an eye on how other people are responding to what you say. If they seem to be losing interest or becoming defensive, it may be time to rethink your strategy. If they are not looking you in the eye, they may be uncomfortable. Try not to make quick assumptions based on body language, because it can be very easy to misinterpret; however, be aware of it as you continue your conversation.

6. Interpersonal Connection

Interpersonal connection involves the ability to forge common bonds with others. It doesn’t always need to include a clear goal; sometimes, connecting for connection’s sake can have the biggest payoff in the end. Find a common link with the other person, but don’t be invasive or fake. Get to know them, and help them get to know you.

Show that you have value. Give them a reason to trust what you’re saying. Any connection you build, even one that seems unimportant in the moment,  could lead to other opportunities down the line.

Try to find something in common with the other person, something you can connect over. What similarities do you share? Interests? Histories? Find some way to connect.

7. Diplomacy

Daniele Varè, an Italian diplomat and author, once wrote that “diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” It is a way of guiding the conversation in a particular direction without putting the other person on the defensive. There is a delicate balancing act involved in making sure that all points are heard and acknowledged while no feelings are hurt.

If you accidentally offend someone, diplomacy also involves the ability to defuse a potentially volatile situation. Validate the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Even if you don’t agree with them, acknowledging those feelings can go a long way. People want to be understood, and if you try to push them in a certain direction without putting in the work to understand them, it can lead them to become obstinate and refuse to work with you.

Sometimes, diplomacy involves moving the discussion to a later time. If the situation has already become intense, it may be best for everyone involved to take a break and reconvene at a later time. Depending on the situation, this break could be as long as a week or two or as short as five minutes. The important part is that everyone has the opportunity to process their emotions and return when they are all calm. Remain non-confrontational throughout the process, and take care to avoid accusatory or emotionally-charged phrases like “You’ve got to be kidding!” or “There’s no way!” Simply saying “No,” can convey the same information without putting the other party on edge.

8. Honesty

We’ve placed this skill last, but that certainly doesn’t mean it is the least important. Honesty is at the heart of all productive communication. And while honesty may not necessarily seem like a skill at first, it is actually crucial to develop it in your communication.

If you are dishonest with someone, whether that person is a coworker, a boss, someone with whom you do business, or a close personal relationship, it breeds anxiety in you and distrust from others.

While it may sometimes be tempting to be dishonest with others in order to gain an advantage, any benefit that comes of it will be temporary at best. In the long term, dishonesty will burn bridges behind you and drag your reputation through the mud.

If you build a reputation for being honest, though, even in situations where it might not benefit you, you will build goodwill among those you know, and eventually it can even spread to people you have never met. If you are honest, the relationships you build will be on firmer ground, and any agreements you have with others will be more likely to stand.

At Shapiro Negotiations, we recognize just how important it is to be able to communicate well. It’s the basis on which all relationships stand. The ability to express yourself clearly and understand what others are saying will help you to build stronger relationships, both personal and in the workplace.

One last key tip when it comes to communicating with others: respect. Respect the people with whom you are interacting. Recognize that, while their histories and viewpoints may differ from yours, that doesn’t make them any less valid. Respect the businesses with whom you are doing business. The fact that you are negotiating with them is evidence that they have something that you want, which means there are probably several things you could stand to learn from them.

And, of course, respect yourself. Respect yourself to be honest in the ways you interact with people. Respect yourself to be willing to understand the reasons behind your viewpoints and opinions. Respect yourself enough to figure out more than one way to get your point across so that you can communicate with a wide variety of people. And respect yourself to be willing to continue to grow and improve.

We at Shapiro Negotiations can give you and your team the training you need to improve your communication skills and build stronger relationships with others. For more information, fill out the form below. We’d love to work with you.