Most people think good communication is about your speaking abilities. How well you can speak on stage, your body language, your voice, your presence, and the speech you build.

Many people talk about persuasion and the techniques with which you can cajole your audience and clients to buy into what you say and sell.

In my first IT business (Electronbox & PC Doctor), people came to me because they had a need. Sales were not so much of a difficult thing. Ask about the problem, provide a solution and a deal were more than often agreed upon swiftly.

Yet in my second Startup (Urbytus), I had to learn to sell. The customer was not aware of their need for my product. It was something new and I had to sell them the idea, the service, and the benefits. I had to learn how to do hard-core sales.

So my journey began with learning how to sell, negotiate and close a deal.

In sales and marketing classes I was taught that it is about answering all the questions and removing all their barriers. I would spend hours working on my arguments, facts, and figures. I would run through my head every scenario of what I should say and how I should persuade my counterpart to accept my offer.

I was led to understand that you should also not give your counterpart a chance to say No. Get them while they’re hot and hit. Don’t leave room for them to think or talk outside of the deal. Move fast and close it before they change their mind.

Before learning to communicate and negotiate, I would waste endless hours doing all the above and in the process lose endless clients and deals.

The one thing everyone misunderstands about sales and being a good communicator is that it does not start with being a good speaker and learning to persuade.

That’s right. It does not start with learning to speak, negotiate and persuade. It starts with something much simpler and yet much harder than we think. I did not learn this skill until about 8 years ago and even then it took me some time to understand the power of this simple tool.

I know, I have dragged it too long and you just want me to blurt out what it is that is so important and you want to start getting on with doing that one thing.

That one thing, I have been doing for 8 years, learning, and practicing and I am still working at it. It is not something you can just do, but it is something you start with, practice, and every day get better at.

The key and most important aspect of communication and good negotiation is learning to listen. Listening is the most important tool you need for any negotiation and it is a skill you must practice first when you start on your “Communication Learning Journey”.

When I first joined toastmasters, some of the simplest roles were those that required you not to speak, but to listen. Yes Listening. And often it is underestimated how important this toolset/ability is.

When you learn to listen, is when you start to improve your understanding of your audience, what they need, how they feel, what moves them, and so on. It is only then that you can get under their skin.

That one question, allowed my client to tell me everything about their problem. Sometimes it would take a long time and I would sit there patiently listening to every little detail. Everything they said was important.

Once they had finished talking, I had a complete picture. I knew how they lived, what they did for a living, what they needed, and why they wanted. Every little detail they gave me, was a plus point that allowed me to build in all the extra parts & services I sold them with full justification.

There were no barriers to the sale. They had already told me their full life story, their budget (directly or indirectly), all the whys and the whats. I used all that information to solve their problem. I didn’t call it sales. I was helping them. It was not about maximizing sales, it was about making sure that my client got everything they needed. I did not have to oversell, upsell or suggest if would you like this or that.

Listening was the key. The client felt listened to. They felt understood and everything I offered was simply based on the problems they had described and needed resolving.

It has taken me a decade to relearn what I was already doing. It has taken me a decade to learn how to become a good communicator and learn to listen and every week I attend several sessions in which I practice not just speaking, but rather listening.

This one skill set is the most important in the art of negotiation, communication, and fundraising. Next time you are fundraising for your startup and you are learning how to pitch, and how to speak in front of investors and persuade them to invest in your startup, remember there is a much easier way. It starts by listening.

Listening is simple, yet is so hard because we are all so geared up for telling our story, our point of view, our facts and figures, and many times we don’t even give our opponent the opportunity to speak.

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