What do you know about the prospects you are cold calling? Research shows that most people make their purchasing decisions in the first 30 to 40 seconds of a conversation, so how you communicate is absolutely critical to your success. After all, it’s not what you say, but how you say it!

In this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl is joined by the incredibly insightful Richard Conde from InsideSalesGeek.com and The University of Houston – Downtown. Darryl and Richard discuss the importance of knowing ways to adapt and connect to your prospects the way they want to be connected. Sales reps do drastically better when they communicate better! Learn how to fix your approach and communicate more effectively, only on this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales!

Not in the mood to listen? No problem, you can read the transcriptions below.

Host:  Darryl PraillVanillaSoft

Guest: Richard Conde, Inside Sales Geek


Darryl Praill: Good afternoon, good evening, good morning. No matter where you are, folks, I am so thrilled, delighted. I am ecstatic, in fact, that you’ve taken time out of your schedule to join us today for another episode of INSIDE Inside Sales.

Darryl Praill: How are you doing? My name is Daryl Praill. I’m with VanillaSoft, but every week I’m here with you, spending some quality time. You know, it’s fun. I’ve been on the road a little bit lately. I’m always saying that, aren’t I? I’ve been on the show circuit. I was presenting recently at MarTech Conference, and it’s a cool show. We do the East Coast and West Coast version. It’s all about things that are all related to, as you might’ve guessed, marketing technology, which is really… Even though it’s marketing technologies, it’s sales and marketing technology.

Darryl Praill: It’s about building your stack out in the operations side, what is now becoming known as revenue operations. It kind of sits between sales and marketing. To make sure that you have all the information, have all the advantages you need so that you have… There’s no concept of a cold call. It’s a warm call, right? They’ve been to your website so many times, they’ve consumed so many pieces. Here’s the reverse IP. We can look them up. We know it came from IBM, from their Raleigh office, whatever. You sort of figure it all out, that they’ve gone and now there’s so many social buying intent signals going on out there. So they’ve been on your site, but they’ve also been Googling and looking at other stuff. We know that they’ve gone to trade shows.

Darryl Praill: All this stuff is real today, guys and gals. It’s amazing how much we know about our prospects. And the whole reason we do that is so that, when you pick up the phone, when you reach out to them by email, it’s so you can actually have a truly warm conversation, that you have all this background information before you place the call. You’ve probably checked them out on LinkedIn perhaps.

Darryl Praill: So you have context, the papers they were consuming, the pains they were searching for answers for. You know who they are based in their social media profiles. You know their history, you know their background. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how far things have gone. The days of working through a phone book, which is going to be foreign to so many of you, and dialing one at a time or getting the local business directory and trying to reach out one at a time with zero contacts are gone.

Darryl Praill: But you know what’s interesting is, despite having all of this information available to us, and it’s plentiful, you don’t know, you really don’t know who that person is. And what do I mean by that? I mean, are they an introvert? Are they an extrovert? Do they use big words? Do they use little words? Are they monotone when they talk? Are they loud and boisterous when they talk? You know, do they have a favorite sports team? Are they passionate about their puppies or their cats or their kids or their grandkids? Do they love to travel? Are they a big fan of pizza?

Darryl Praill: You don’t know any of this, and this is important because, when you communicate with someone, it’s not just about an exchange of ideas. It’s also about communicating in a way that they communicate really. It’s not about how you communicate. It’s about how they communicate. You want to … many schools of thought will say you want to mirror them, although I’ve seen other schools of thought say that’s BS. I’m not sure I agree with that.

Darryl Praill: I will go this way. I’ve got two kids, they’re young adults now. I can look back upon them, and I know I didn’t raise them the same even though they were in the same household and the same roof. I didn’t talk to them the same way. I didn’t discipline them the same way. When I needed to convey an idea or had them do something, I instructed them differently because they had their own styles, even though they were my kids. I lived with them all the time. I knew them intimately. I knew the strengths and the weaknesses, and yet I didn’t communicate to them.

Darryl Praill: That’s the thing. How you communicate is as critical as what you’re saying. Remember the classic, “It’s not just what you’re saying, it’s how you’re saying it”? Well, this is the same thing? We tend to default into our own preferred style, and that’s fine initially if you want to start off that way. But the shrewd sales professional makes determining that communication style as critical, as prominent in their discovery process as actually figuring out any pains or challenges they may have to make sure it’s something that you can fix.

Darryl Praill: So I guess I asked you that. Are you doing that? I know I’m not always good at doing that. I stumble across that when I’m at the trade shows I’m at, when I’m trying to connect with people, and I have to remind myself.

Darryl Praill: And that, my friends, is why we’re joined today by Richard Conde. Richard is a rock star when it comes all this. He is an assistant professor, a consultant sales researcher, and a big arse public speaker, if you know what I’m saying. You might’ve have heard of it, “A Smarter Way to Sales Performance and Leadership.”

Darryl Praill: He works at the University of Houston downtown. He is down there in the big state of Texas. He’s done a ton of research. I’ve asked him to join me today to share some information he has on communication competencies for sales development reps so that you can be effective. And along the way I’m going to eavesdrop, and I’m going to cherry-,pick some of the great ideas that he’s going to share with us and I’m going to try him out myself again, and I’ll report back. You know how that went.

Darryl Praill: Richard, you’ve been very patient with me. Welcome to the show, my friend.

Richard Conde: Hey, Darryl, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be on, and it’s a great treat for me to share some of the research with the group. And at the end, hopefully there are some tactics that people can take away to be more successful in their communication competencies.

Darryl Praill: Well, that’s the whole point, right? That’s why we do this show specifically. It’s all about making my audience a little bit smarter than they were before they began. And I’m as as anxious as everybody out there listening to this because I want to be better. Why wouldn’t I?

Darryl Praill: Now, you … let’s start with some basics right. Let’s kind of baseline this. Can you help … and you’ve heard my ramble, but you come at it clearly obviously from both an academic point of view, as well as a data-driven point of view. You’ve done a lot of research around this. So let’s just start with the baseline. Why are communication competencies for the sales professional, why are they so important?

Richard Conde: Yeah, that’s a great question. So as an aside, there is some research that actually shows that people with better communication competencies have longer lifespans. So, just beyond the ability to communicate with people, those who communicate better live longer, and there are many reasons why that might be.

Richard Conde: But, if you think about it from a business perspective, how do you change your approach? How do you use the right communication tactics to really understand what your prospect is thinking and how to better communicate to that individual? Many times in business, and I’m sure you have experienced this, Darryl, we get a call or we’re dealing with a sales person, and they are only focusing on their on the way they communicate, ignoring the way I want to be communicated or ignoring how to listen to individuals. And research is pretty clear on the power of communication and how it increases sales for salespeople.

Richard Conde: Now, sadly, there isn’t a lot of research for inside salespeople regarding this tactic. However, the limited research shows a great advantage when inside salespeople, in this case SDRs, focus on five specific items which lead to better sales results.

Richard Conde: So, from a business perspective, it makes sense, and most importantly, if you think about it from a customer perspective, I tend to think about it from my perspective, is how do I want people to communicate with me? How do I want them to acknowledge what I’m saying? And people who are better at it generally get my attention. And we want our customers to get attention because generally people make a decision within the first 30 to 40 seconds, and we want to be able to capture them as quickly as possible. So really, that’s one of the most important reasons to have better communication competencies because it allows us to connect with our customer in a more meaningful way.

How do I want people to communicate with me? How do I want them to acknowledge what I'm saying? Listen as @insidesalesgeek digs into #ColdCalling tactics on #InsideInsideSales #podcast. Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill: It’s interesting to hear you say that because in the past we’ve had, and I’ve had a couple of different other industry thought leaders in the space, crispy old Benjamin Dennehy,, and they always have this concept of when you do a cold call, you’ve got 30 seconds, and within that first 30 seconds you better nail, I think Chris says 27 seconds, but you get the idea. And here you’re saying people make a decision in the first 30 to 40 seconds. So it is a recurring theme we see over and over again.

Darryl Praill: Another thing that you talk about is we fall back often on what’s in it for me versus what’s in it for my prospect. And I can give an example of that. I can’t tell you how many times, just in the last, I don’t know, last week as an example, I get LinkedIn requests, and then LinkedIn requests I’ll applaud as an example. They’re communicating with me. And so instead of a phone or an email, it’s a LinkedIn request. It’s an outreach, a connection request.

Darryl Praill: And instead of saying, “Hey, Darryl, I like what you’re doing. I saw you speak here. I saw you talk there, I’ve seen your posts, I saw whatever, I saw a comment. We’re in the same industry. I’d love to connect,” what I get is I get, “Hey, Darryl, I would love to tell you about my company.” And when I get those I just go, “Nope” because that’s not a relationship. That’s nothing. I want to connect and talk about style.

Darryl Praill: Other people will probably connect with that person, but that’s not how I connect. And so that wasn’t 30 seconds. That was five. And I said, “Nope, gone.” And over and over and over again. And the worst part is I want to tell these people, “You do realize I’m saying no, and this is why,” but there’s no mechanism to do that. So I feel bad doing it, but my time is too busy, and that’s how sales works.

Richard Conde: Yeah, that’s a great point. And, Darryl, great SDRs, great salespeople really adapt to their customer. And there are a number of ways to adapt. We’re going to talk about communication competencies today, but there are other ways that people adapt, and I’m doing additional research on those subjects.

Richard Conde: But to your point is we actually think about our customer or our prospect because they have a different background, different perspectives, different biases, different reference points than we have. So we need to acknowledge those and connect in the way they wanted to be connected.

Darryl Praill: So talk to me about your research. What did you do? And, if you can, share some of the findings of the output of that.

Richard Conde: Yeah. So what’s interesting, there’s actually a theory called speech accommodation theory. Who would have thought that, right? And the theory really talks about how individuals vary their speech rate, their vocal pitch, their vocal intensity, and other communication patterns to accommodate listeners.

Richard Conde: So recently, last year I read an article by Downing, and he did some work on inside salespeople actually, which is only the second or third article of research specific to that. So his research was a little bit different than mine. What he focused on was he used coaches to identify key competencies that sales agents use during the conversation, and he tracked it to sales results. And what he found was that the better sales agents had these five key competencies.

Richard Conde: So I was curious about that. What I did was I took it a step farther and I did a a real life experiment with a company, and we were able to utilize five different high performers and five low performers, and we tested them utilizing 10 customers with each communication competence.

Richard Conde: So, for example, during a call, we would have the salesperson utilize only one of the competencies, and then we track the outcome of the call. So we had a large data set, which our dependent variable was conversion, right? So we wanted them to convert. And what I found was that, as an agent increased or used more of the competencies, their sales conversion increased. When they used two versus three, I mean two versus one, it increased accordingly. Now, what was interesting is, when they used all five of the competencies, it had an expound effect on the results, where sales conversion was four times higher than if they only used four of the competencies.

Darryl Praill: Wow. So they used five, it was four times better than using four, but four was better than three, and three is better than two. That’s dramatic. Wow. All right, so what are the five competencies?

Richard Conde: Yeah, and the thing is they’re all there. There’s nothing really unusual about the competencies. It’s about how we communicate, and they’re very simple. But yet most people don’t do a very good job, specifically on the phone, utilizing these five competencies.

Richard Conde: So the first one’s really simple: speak at an appropriate rate. Now, most people are speaking about 150 words a minute. Now, think about, if you have a customer in the Southern part of the United States, generally individuals in certain states in the South speak at a lower rate. But we as SDRs, as salespeople, we tend to continue with our pace, regardless if our target customer speaks maybe a lower rate or a faster rate. So it’s really important to mirror.

Richard Conde: And I agree with you actually, a comment you made earlier, to mirror a customer, and if you target someone who has this lower rate, you got to speak at their preferred rate. It’s a simple, but many people don’t take into consideration the geography of their prospect. Maybe the age. Some people may speak a little bit slower when they’re older. Or geographical, cultural, relational background. So, for example, your culture can a difference. I tend to speak very fast, and some of that comes from my Latino background. So I have to be really aware, when I’m speaking to someone, to slow down because naturally I speak really fast.

Richard Conde: So, when I’m speaking to a prospect or I’m doing a presentation, I have to be cognizant of the rate of my speech. So that’s number one. So it’s pretty pretty basic, right?

Darryl Praill: That is basic, and I’m going to hold you right there. I want to be like that cliffhanger, end of the season thing. That’s number one, basic stuff, but I love this, guys. We talked about all the information available to you now, like warm leads because like you can go to LinkedIn, you get all this stuff. You know the region they’re in. You can get an idea of their age in their profile picture. There’s lots of clues that will lead you to going into that call because you should be planning your call out, right? As you’re planning your call, part of that is speak at that appropriate rate, and you’ll figure it out very quickly once you’re into that call if you got it right or not. You can adjust then, but in the meantime, always have a plan.

Darryl Praill: There’s four to go. Don’t go anywhere. We’ll be right back.

Darryl Praill: All right, I’m keen to hear the next four. But before I do that, if you folks are interested, Keenan and I had a whole conversation when we had a debate about the … you talk about communication styles here, I was debating with him about the use of expletives, swear words, colorful language in the use of your sales. You can check that out on the VanillaSoft website. It was a great debate.

Darryl Praill: Part of that was the whole idea of mirroring. Keenan is an example of someone who doesn’t agree with mirroring. In his book, “Gap Selling,” he talks about that. So, again, in sales you want to pick and choose the advice you hear. I love this advice, what we’re hearing today from Richard, because this is based on an actual academic study. There is no bias, there’s no influence, there’s no preferences. This is just raw data. Love it.

Darryl Praill: That’s number one, speak at an appropriate rate. Bring on number two, Richard.

Richard Conde: Number two is something you’re doing really great at right now is emphasize important points with changes of pitch and volume. For doing the introduction, you were doing a great job with your volume and your pitch, emphasizing things that were important.

Richard Conde: So how many times during a prospecting call does an SDR just follow the same monotone format? Or maybe they have a script or maybe they’re being asked to say certain things. But certain things are more important than others, and good salespeople, good communicators know how to adjust their pitch and volume. It’s very interesting how you capture someone’s attention by just a mere change in how you say something, and that makes the person on the other side of the phone … “Wow, that must be important. I need to listen to that.” Again, that’s a very simple tactic, but many people don’t take advantage of being able to fluctuate how they say things.

Darryl Praill: It’s funny to hear you say that because I’ve gotten that feedback before. A couple of things, I guess. One, I would agree with that point you’re making because people subconsciously are looking for those visual and audible cues of when they should pay attention. And I know one of the advice I give to even my fellow public speakers, for example, is you’ve got to mix up your pace and you got to make up your inflections on stage, which is the same as being on a phone, so that the audience knows when, “Okay, pay attention now. This is a real sweet nugget. You don’t want to miss this.”

Darryl Praill: And I’ve even had people say to me, when I do videos, I’ll get feedback from them like “I love how you’re getting … you’re pacing, you’re walking, and all of a sudden you stopped, and then you said something, and we knew, when you stopped, that there was gold coming.” Even though I hadn’t said anything yet. So, again, people are conditioned and trained to look for these cues. So to your point, leverage them. Love that. Point number three.

Richard Conde: Yeah, the third point is acknowledge or paraphrase what the customer said. How many times have you been speaking to someone, and you hear silence, or you can sort of tell the person’s at the same time looking at something on the internet and not paying full attention? People like to be rewarded for their behaviors. So, when you paraphrase or you acknowledge what they said, it validates them as a consumer.

Richard Conde: Many people are so used to wanting to get their pitch out or wanting to make sure that what they want to say gets out, that they often don’t have the conversation with the prospect or the client. Again, these five things are very basic, very simple, but they’re still powerful when they use them in tandem with each other. Everybody wants to feel good, and the way to make sure you also understand what the other person’s saying is to paraphrase, acknowledge them because you’ll have them continue along with you in the conversation.

Richard Conde: Imagine if I said something, you didn’t respond to any way, I’m like, “Is that guy there? Is he listened to me? Did he acknowledge me as a consumer?” And many SDRs are so concerned with getting out what they need to say that they forget the important part of the conversation is listening and acknowledging the other person.

Darryl Praill: And that goes back, folks. We’ve talked about this before in past episodes about mindset. Mindset is not just about the ability to handle rejection, for example, or whatnot. Mindset is also the fact that you’ve got to be consciously and intentionally of a mindset that you want to hear. It’s not about you trying to go, “Blah” and get it all out because you’re scared, you’re worried. You want to do it before they hang up on you. It’s about I’m here to have a conversation.

Darryl Praill: It’s funny, Richard, when you said paraphrase what the customer said. Years ago, so literally in this next week coming up, my wife and I are celebrating 30 years of marriage, which I can’t understand how that’s remotely possible because I’m not the easiest person to live with. But one of the things we did along the years was we would occasionally go to these little … let’s call it a study group periodically. And there were different things, and often it was about your marriage.

Darryl Praill: And we went to one, one time, where it was about communication between couples. And one of the pieces of advice was, when you’re having a fight with your spouse, and this is … folks, this is actually quite similar to a phone call with a prospect, is to paraphrase.

Darryl Praill: So, if my wife was yelling at me about something I was doing that she found frustrating, my point would be to paraphrase back to her, make sure I got it right, and she felt heard, which was, “So what I’m hearing you say, honey, is that, when I leave the toothpaste cap off the toothpaste, that makes you upset, and you would like me to put the cap on the toothpaste. Is that what I heard? Is that correct?” And if I got it wrong, she’s going to correct me, but if I got it right, she’s going to go, “Yeah.” And she’s going to feel validated. And ironically, even by me paraphrasing, I truly better understand what I need to do to remedy the situation.

Richard Conde: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And the other part of this is you can use that as a learning for the next conversation, which is critical as well.

Darryl Praill: I love it. Point number four.

Richard Conde: Use short affirmative words and sounds to indicate you’ve listened. That’s important, right? It kind of ties into the third one. But you want to use affirmative words, and you don’t want to go on forever. To your point, you want to give that quick acknowledgment and do it positively, but do use short words because that gets the other person engaged in the conversation.

Richard Conde: In my study, when I listened to many of these calls, when the individuals who didn’t get to this fourth, it was amazing, the ones that did, how more engaged the person seemed just listening to them because they felt more validated. So three and four sort of go together and tie with one another.

Darryl Praill: It’s funny because that’s probably one of the areas that I’m weak. I like to talk, and sometimes why say something in one or two seconds with short affirmative words when I can say it in five seconds? And I’m conscious of that. I’ve been blessed with some good coaches over the years, but it’s something I have to constantly be very intentional about.

Darryl Praill: But I love that because the short affirmative words not only affirms them, to your point, but also I think it sets a cadence to the conversation. It’s a rhythm. And so I’ve acknowledged this, boom, let’s move on to the next point, and I’ll get all the information, then I’ll come back. So it feels like we’re making progress. I love that. I feel like I’m not wasting my time talking to you. That’s nice. Point number five, the fifth point.

Richard Conde: The fifth point: use language the customer can understand. So my data set was in the financial industry, and it was interesting, when we had individuals get to the fifth point, we purposely asked some of the sales agents just to use jargon or synonyms that are common in the industry. It was amazing. So the disconnect that the customer had, there’s some studies that indicate that we communicate at an eighth grade level. So, if you have a technical product, if you have whatever it might be, you really need to think about it. How would you communicate that to an eighth grader, right? Make it simple. People want to understand what you’re saying and sharing.

Richard Conde: But sometimes we get too technical, or we use too much jargon that’s common in the industry when someone may not feel comfortable, or the synonyms may be different, acronyms, excuse me, may be different between companies or industries. So just being a basic communicator, keeping it eighth-grade level, has a great impact on the listener.

'Sometimes we get too technical, or we use too much jargon...being a basic communicator, keeping it eighth-grade level, has a great impact on the listener.' ~ @insidesalesgeek #ColdCalling Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill: So that’s almost somewhat counterintuitive because part of me is thinking, if I drop a few industry pieces of jargon, some TLAs, etc., that they would understand that I obviously am an expert in their industry, and they should trust me. And yet what I’m hearing you say is, and perhaps you can do that a little bit, but really it’s more so about keeping it very simple, grade eight level, so we can ensure that we are all saying the same thing, and we’re avoiding any misunderstandings because maybe my expectation of the acronyms and the jargon is actually different from what they’re using that, and that can cause confusion.

Richard Conde: Correct. And again, my data set was in financial issues, but it was really interesting, sort of the disengagement, I call it, when the salesperson tries to use really technical terms because, for them, it’s like, “Hey, help me understand in my way, my language,” which I think leads to … also depends on who you’re speaking to, right? If you’re speaking to a very heavy tech person, you may want to use maybe more because they understand it, but generally when we’re prospecting, we don’t really reach the decision-makers right off the bat.

Darryl Praill: All right, let’s recap. I know we’re tight on time here, so let’s just … the wonderful five things you folks learned today, and I love we can have five things. That’s just a magic number for me.

Darryl Praill: When it comes to communication competencies, you can have a dramatic impact in your success, especially when you use all five of these, as you heard Richard talk about. One: speak at an appropriate rate. Did you see what I did there? I slowed down.

Darryl Praill: Two: emphasize important points in changes of pitch and volume. Yeah, I’m being facetious.

Darryl Praill: Three: acknowledge or paraphrase what the customer said.

Darryl Praill: Four: use short affirmative words and sounds to convey that you’ve listened.

Darryl Praill: And five: use language that the customer can understand.

Darryl Praill: Do that. Do all of that, my friends, and your life is going to get a heck of a lot better, and it’s not just hearsay. This is an academic study. They’ve got the data to back it up.

Darryl Praill: Richard, if they want to follow you online learn more about you, or they just want to become a student of yours, what’s the best way to reach out and to connect with you? Is it LinkedIn, or are there other vehicles that you recommend?

Richard Conde: Yeah, so LinkedIn is probably number one, but also I have a Twitter handle called insidesalesgeek.com. I’m the only current academic that used to be an inside sales executive, and I only focus on inside sales research. So I am the only one in the world that has that combination. And all my research is inside sales specific, and it varies on different topics, but @insidesalesgeek is my Twitter handle.

Richard Conde: At UHD, we have one of the only handful of sales MBA programs in the United States. We’re working on some online MBA options, but for now we have hybrid classes. So, if you’re in the Texas area, if you want to move to Houston, we’re preparing what we call Sales Leaders 3.0 because we realize that sales is quickly evolving. Technology is key, and we want to prepare the leaders for what’s coming, know what has happened in sales.

Darryl Praill: There you have it. The Inside Sales Geek telling you to take your career to a whole ‘nother level with an MBA and be a leader in the industry. I love it. Richard Conde on the communication competencies you need to be more effective sales reps. We’re out of time today, folks. My name is Darryl Praill. I’m with VanillaSoft. This is INSIDE Inside Sales. We will talk to you again next week. Take care, folks. Bye, bye.