The Art of “Reading” People You Can’t See

The Art of “Reading” People You Can’t See
a/k/a Cold calling and e-mailing “in style”

Our clients hear us talk about behavioral styles and the impact of modifying styles to fit the audience. We know that“people buy from people they like” and we tend to like people who are like us! When I can see your face, watch your movements and see what’s hanging on your office wall, I can get a good idea what you are all about. But, what about when I don’t get to meet you — when all of our communication is over the phone or by e-mail?

The good news for salespeople is that we all give “clues” to our preferences and our styles even over the phone and in writing. Now granted, it is harder to read someone when you don’t have all of the data but good salespeople can take some of the data and work with it. Even when we match the prospect or client just a little bit, our chances of creating a bond increase.

So, how do I know what your preferences are if I can’t see your face? Word choice, tone, pace, accents, background noise (are they typing while they talk to you?) all give clues. The most important thing is for the salesperson to listen more than they talk. This bears repeating — we can read someone and understand their preferences, only if we let them talk more than we do. To do this well, the salesperson must spend the first several interactions or moments of interaction asking questions and listening to understand what the person on the other end is trying to convey.

This means more than just listening to the answers and taking notes on their budget, their priorities, etc. It means listening to what’s underneath what they are saying — are they rushed, stressed, calm, complacent, non-emotional, angry or too emotional? Do they speak fast and clipped, or slow and thoughtfully? What kind of words do they use — results focused, people focused or both? What kinds of things are important to them — solving a problem, personal accomplishment (“looking good”), taking their time to think?

It’s not too different with e-mail. The folks who use your name, close with their name are usually the “people-people”. The folks who write short sentences and give clipped information are usually the results-focused ones. E-mail is definitely the hardest to discern, but the rule of thumb is to respond to the prospect or client in a similar way to how they communicate with you.

Listening, paying attention, staying alert and working to understand the prospect’s messages will give you the clues you need to communicate effectively even without being able to look into the prospect’s eyes!