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Testing Your People Skills--DeWese

January 2001
All the debates on television between the Republican and Democrat spin masters during the presidential debates and then, subsequently, their endless debates about the debatable election results got me to thinking how far down we Americans have fallen in the graceful and gentle art of conversation.

We Americans have become lousy conversationalists. Even Gore and Bush seemed challenged by this most basic form of human communication.

You would think the two presidential candidates that represent the two major political parties of the greatest country in the world would be master conversationalists—good at attentively listening to an opponent and then responding. Shouldn't they also be our most expert citizens in the skill and art of persuasion?

Persuasiveness is fundamental to a good sales conversation, and it can't be practiced unless the persuader has carefully HEARD the remarks and concerns of the buyer. The President is a salesperson and should be able to persuade the American people to follow his or her lead. The President should also be able to persuade Congress to enact legislation and convince some third-world nation that terrorism directed to the United States is not a good idea.

But, alas, Gore and Bush communicated with the other and with us by employing the "I'll talk, you listen" approach to verbal communication.

I've carried this presidential analogy too long and too far. You got my point after about the first three sentences.

I have written many times that there are only a handful of ways to communicate with customers and prospects. There is the phone (and its obscene cousin, "voice mail"). By the way, I don't want any voice mails, e-mails or faxes telling me, "Oh you hypocrite, Mañana Man, you have voice mail!" I know I have voice mail. I also know that I have an oversized gut and I don't like that either.

Then there are the fax and e-mail. There is also the grossly underused U.S. Postal Service mailed letter. Finally, there is the old fashioned, face-to-face sales call.

Printing salespeople, I hope, know that the best way to persuade buyers is in a "sales" conversation during a face-to-face sales call. And, yet, too many print salespeople are poor conversationalists. I'm convinced that most poor conversationalists are fundamentally insecure. Low self-esteem causes them to talk when they should be listening. When they do listen, they aren't actively listening.

We have a U.S. Constitution that contains the rules for our government. We also have local laws, for instance, that say, "If you drink and drive and we catch you, we are gonna slap you up side the head, put your derriere in jail—and that's after we fine you $5,000 and take away your driver's license."
 

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