This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s communication resource, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. John Maxwell has been one of the world’s foremost communication experts for more than 40 years, and this guidebook for relational and presentational connection contains invaluable insights. You can pick up a copy here.
Doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters.
These were the professions found most trustworthy in a 2016 Hubspot Research survey. Without any other identifying markers, healthcare workers like doctors (49%) and nurses (36%) were most trusted, among public service providers like firefighters (48%) and teachers (38%).
The least trusted? Marketers (3%), salespeople (3%), politicians (1%), and lobbyists (1%).
Because it is so easy to feel that they are not “for” you. In our interactions with them, healthcare professionals and public service providers are there to help us – while salespeople and lobbyists, it seems, are only there to help themselves. When we feel like the other person is delivering their message without care or credibility, there’s no rapport – and without rapport, there’s no possibility of relationship.
Communication is a two-way process, but it’s for the listener. If we want to engage, connect, and effectively communicate, they have to know we’re about their benefit.
How to Communicate That You’re “For” Your Listeners
Whether you’re selling a product, speaking to a crowd, or just offering advice to a colleague, your listeners have three questions that you must answer affirmatively before compelling communication can begin:
1. “DO YOU CARE FOR ME?”
Mutual concern creates connection.
Les Giblin, popular speaker and former National Salesman of the Year, knew this was true in business: “You can’t make the other fellow feel important in your presence if you secretly feel that he is a nobody.”
Abraham Lincoln made the same observation in politics: “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.”
Minister Norman Vincent Peale, one of the 20th century’s most influential American ministers, only spoke for the benefit of his congregation: “I get a speech over [with] because I love people and want to help them.”
Human beings are relational by nature. We have a strong desire to connect, but we are often preoccupied with our own worries and needs. When we are able to show others that we genuinely care about them, we connect with them – and they give weight to our words.
2. “CAN YOU HELP ME?”
Nobody wants to be sold, but everyone wants to be helped.
This old sales adage reframes the perspective around selling: we all want to maximize our return and minimize our effort. No one wants to be told what’s good for them – no one wants to be convinced – but everyone wants to do better with what they’ve got.In his book Presenting to Win, bestselling author and presentation coach Jerry Weissman explains that often, people trying to communicate focus on features of their product, service, or message instead of answering the question, “Can you help me?” The key, he says, is to focus on benefits, not features. He says:
“A Feature is a fact or quality about you or your company, the products you sell, or the idea you’re advocating. By contrast, a Benefit is how that fact or quality will help your audience. When you seek to persuade, it’s never enough to present the Features of what you’re selling; every Feature must always be translated into a Benefit. Whereas a Feature may be irrelevant to the needs or interests of your audience, a Benefit, by definition, is always relevant.”
Your listeners might not care what it is that you are sharing with them, but they definitely care that it will help them solve a problem. And when you reflect their needs back to them, you reinforce that you do, in fact, care for them.
3. “CAN I TRUST YOU?”
Hubspot Research not only found that salespeople were only trusted 3% – the survey also found that car salesmen, distinct from all other kinds of salespeople, have a trust ratio of only 1%.
The image of the average car salesman has not been helped by the sleazy stereotype. Nor has it been bolstered by the fact that so many people seem to have been put on edge by the car-buying experience. There are even online articles advising you how to avoid getting taken advantage of by car salesmen.
But not every car salesman is in it for themselves.
In a letter to Maxwell Leadership founder John Maxwell, Emran Bhojawala introduced him to Lloyd, a car salesman in the Washington, D.C. area, who went above and beyond for Emran. Lloyd proved himself so trustworthy that Emran even purchased a car from Lloyd in D.C., sight unseen, after Emran moved to Minnesota.
“When I wanted to buy a car,” Emran explained, “I didn’t have to worry about anything. I told him my budget and flew to Virginia to pick up a car I had never seen.” Emran then drove twenty-three hours to get home. “He is THE legend when it comes to selling cars in the area near my school,” wrote Emran. “He does not advertise, and all his business comes from previous customers and references. I think that’s a perfect example of success in connecting with people.”
Trust is the foundation that makes rapport, communication, and connection possible – it may not be easily built up, but it pays exponential dividends in relational value.
Are you looking for ways to become a master communicator?
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