Angela Crossan is the Southwest Managing Director at Communispond, the market leader in communication training. Angela Crossan is a sales leader at Communispond, a leading company that provides communication coaching and training to more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and has helped more than 800,000 professionals achieve business goals by communicating with clarity and power. With 12 worldwide anchors, Communispond provides global solutions that are consistent and relevant to its clients’ needs.
1. Mrs. Angela Crossan, thank you for sitting down with us for our popular sales leader roundtable. For other professionals seeking to provide strategic solutions for their clients, what have you found to be the best way to determine what your clients actually need?
Hi Andy, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I have found the best method of determining a client or prospect’s need is by simply listening to them. At Communispond, we call this ‘active listening’. By actively listening, and staying silent while the other person is speaking, you can then determine the right questions to ask and thus uncovering and satisfying your customer’s needs.
2. In your experience, what types of communication training do you find that most companies could benefit from?
That really depends on the department. Soft skills, like communication skills, are vital in every department and every industry. They are the key to building relationships, gaining visibility, and creating more opportunities for advancement. For instance, I have a number of clients who consistently work on the dialogue skills of their sales and support groups who represent the organization externally on a daily basis. I work with many others in marketing departments that need to improve their writing skills to create consistency and clarity in marketing messages or proposals. And I constantly see a need for public speaking skills training across a variety of departments – leaders, sales, IT, marketing, and even finance.
3. What is the one thing that you can recommend to companies wishing to improve their communication skills within their company?
Make the investment. It will bring you a return. In fact, a recent MIT study found that soft skills training returned roughly 250% on investment within eight months of its conclusion. And a recent multi-university study from Harvard University, Boston College, and University of Michigan found that soft skill development delivered a 256% ROI, with a 12% increase in productivity and increased employee retention.
4. What is the one thing you can recommend to companies wishing to improve their communication skills with their clients?
I’d first determine what gaps they see in their external communication with clients. Some communication gaps might be from a lack of understanding on how to use virtual tools to effectively communicate with clients. Other gaps may arise due to differing communication styles or personality types, and some gaps are the result of internal communication gaps. Once the problem has been clearly identified, then you can properly build a learning plan to close those gaps.
5. Are the fundamentals of communication skills the same for both large and small companies? What unique problems do large companies typically have versus smaller, more nimble companies?
I do feel the basis of communication is the same and that there are many similarities in communication needs of small and large businesses. All employees can benefit from understanding the fundamentals of communication; from building relationships, working in teams, self-confidence, etc.
But there are differences I notice between large and small organizations, too. With large organizations, there is typically C-suite support for learning and teams consistently working on identifying gaps, analyzing current training programs, and identifying solutions to develop their people, but you also have a large group of people who need and expect training. Smaller organizations may have individuals with many responsibilities and may not have a dedicated L&D team. But, they typically have smaller groups who need training and can tailor trainings to the needs of smaller groups.
6. Angela, you have a very strong track record throughout your career. What is your “why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at performance?
I have 2 “whys” – the first, I genuinely love what I do! Not only do I work with an amazing group of people, but I get to wake up every morning knowing that I am going to help professionals better themselves! Nothing is more rewarding to me than helping others. And my second “why” would be my daughter. I’m a firm believer that children learn by example. So, I will always show her what a female can accomplish in her career. I see my successes and failures as a learning tool for her future.
7. Angela, can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
Socratic Selling by Kevin Daley. It’s a fantastic approach that respects the power of the customer–they have the need, they have the power, and they have the decision-making authority. The book dives into ways to work with this power, cooperate with it, and make it work for you.
8. Angela, when communicating with clarity and power, what are the three most important things for our readers to keep in mind?
Be authentic through the use of storytelling, work to understand your audience’s perspective, and take the time to practice and rehearse. I even video record myself when I’m practicing public speaking so I can evaluate my body language, stance, tone, and pace.
9. Angela, how important are phone skills in your sales cycle? Many people have said that phone sales skills are a lost art. Do you agree with that, and what can a salesperson do to help their selling skills over the phone?
Phone skills are vital, and I do feel it is a bit of a lost art. As much as I appreciate all of the various ways to electronically communicate, it can be overused and impersonal. A quick 2-minute phone call can easily accomplish what a long series of email exchanges would. With a call, I can pinpoint verbal queues, quickly and fully understand my client’s needs, and answer any lingering questions they may have. So, my advice for sales folks looking to improve this skill is to simply pick up the phone. Dialogue training can also be invaluable, but those dialogue skills won’t benefit you unless you dial a number.
10. Angela, when companies buy your service, what can they expect to happen at the end of training?
Behavioral change. With that, Communispond highly encourages reinforcement of new skills learned. I typically like to meet with the client after a training to debrief and discuss reinforcement strategies that would work best for their participants. For many of our programs, we offer our participants a plethora of resources for free with lifetime access. Taking the time to create a plan to best utilize these tools and strengthen their new skills will bring the best return to my clients.
Angela, thank you so much for sitting down with us at our DotCom Magazine Sales Expert Round Table. We can see why you are a leader in your field. We hope your interview helps our readers, and we wish you and your family nothing but the best! Thanks again!