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“I Have To Speak To You In Bullet Points…….”

by David Brock on October 20th, 2014

Understanding our customers’ behavioral styles is critical to our effectiveness in connecting with and communicating to them.  There are a number of tools that help us understand the behavioral style of our customers (and colleagues).  They go by the names of DISC, Meyers Briggs, and others.

Each of us has a behavioral style—our styles are neither good nor bad, they just tell us how we tend to hear and engage, how we process information, what influences our abilities to make decisions.

If we want to connect effectively and impactfully , it’s critical for us to understand the behavioral styles of the people we are seeking to influence.  Communicating with them in a way that maximizes their ability to “hear” and “understand” is critical.

So I might communicate with one person, leveraging lots of data, with another helping them understand a broader vision and their role in implementing it, with another I might focus on building the relationship.  Our ability to connect effectively is dependent on our ability to understand their behavioral style and communicate in a way that complements their style.

But we forget, conversations are two ways.  We have our own behavioral and communication styles.  We react in certain ways–based both on what people are saying and on the way they are communicating.  Our own behavioral styles impact the way we engage and communicate with our customers and colleagues.

I’d always been aware of the importance of understanding people’s behavioral styles in communicating with them, but had never realized how much my own behavioral style clouded my own ability to engage and be engaged.  But a number of years ago, I was concluding a conversation with my VP of Sales Ops.  As we finished up the conversation (it happened to be a very good one), she said, “Dave, I’ve learned that I have to speak to you in bullet points……”

She understood my own style and was aligning how she spoke to me in a way that maximized my ability to “hear and be engaged.”  She wanted to make sure she was communicating with me in a way that engage me and made sure I understood her point.

All of a sudden, it struck me, regardless how well we may leverage behavioral styles in communicating with others, our own behavioral styles impact the effectiveness of our communications.  Stated differently, a customer may tell us something, but we hear it in a way that it very different than it was intended.

Just was we have to be sensitive to how to communicate with customers and colleagues, so they really “hear” us, we have to be sensitive to how we listen and hear–and our own unconscious filtering.

Engaging our customers and colleagues, making sure we both understand and are understood is important to our ability to accomplish our goals.  We have to realize it’s a two way street–we have to understand how the customer’s behavioral style and our own impact our conversations.

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  1. Brian MacIver (@Palayo) permalink

    -Thanks, Dave
    – Good Post
    – Importance of Communication
    – Sales TAKE NOTE
    – What’s YOUR style?

  2. Dave, but you don’t speak in bullet points, which shows how difficult it is to discern other’s communication styles. I wished we could give prospects a DISC assessment before our first meeting. For most of my career, I tested the other person with what resonated and what did not by paying attention to their reactions.

    Then, some years ago, a speaker on this topic recommended “Personal Styles and Effective Performance: Make Your Style Work For You” by David W. Merrill, Roger H. Reid. The book is out of print, but you can purchase it used. They did a fabulous job of breaking down communication styles, explaining what each style needs; i.e., facts only, concept or relationship.

    They went beyond customers to employees, peers and superiors and other relationships. I found it to be a valuable book that I wish I read at the beginning of my career. Someone could turn this into an app. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to check off a dozen things and find out the best way to communicate and have that stored in a contact record? In the mean time, I feel this book would be valuable to front line salespeople, managers and executives.

    • Gary, thanks for the great comment and the book reference. There’s a lot of great work on this topic and people should understand it.

      As a reaction to your first sentence–which shows how difficult this is, I don’t speak in bullet points–but I only listen in bullet points (which isn’t really a great trait). So when people communicate to me, don’t get to the point, aren’t direct, I have a tendency to turn off.

      I have to constantly be aware of that tendency–particularly as I am selling and working with clients. I miss a huge amount and may miss totally what they are saying.

      • Dave, presenting differently than how we listen is not uncommon and something we all struggle with. Like you, I give more detail and prefer bullet points and as a result struggle when listening to people who are as long-winded as me. Taking notes helps me absorb styles incompatible with my preferences. The lack of this skill is more apparent in customer facing people and leadership. And the greatest cause of feeling not listened to, one of the biggest complaints customers and employees make.

        We talk a lot about being good listeners. Some people are naturals, but most of us struggle with certain styles. Teaching salespeople to listen better and understand what they’ve heard boosted performance better than most of my other efforts.

        I’m not writing in bullet points and hope I haven’t lost you.

        • This skill deserves priority training and reinforcement.

  3. Great article. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

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