“You had (my business) at hello…”

Ever see the movie Jerry McGuire? In it, a character tells the fictional superstar sports agent, “The key to this business is personal relationships.” This simple yet sage advice really applies to any sales job. Personal relationships are key. And these personal relationships are fostered by communication.

Ask CEOs what skill most directly correlates to business success, and nearly all will answer “SALES SKILLS!” (Well, maybe they won’t scream it.)

But in some ways, this answer is incomplete. It’s like saying that the key to fitness is being able to lift heavy weights or do hours and hours of cardio. Well, the key to fitness is actually dedication and planning. Lifting and running are the symptoms of these.

So to continue the analogy, what are strong sales skills a symptom of? The answer is simple: strong communication skills.

That means that before you invest in fancy metrics, new technology, and robust sales platforms, you’ll want to invest in developing good communication skills on your team. Use those skills to build long-term customer relationships and you’ll see your investment pay dividends for years to come.

Consider the benefits of a strong communicator.

Confident communicators make more sales.

A salesperson might in fact be very knowledgeable about a product, sector, or industry. But what good is all that knowledge if they can’t project confidence or convey information? Even worse, what if they come off as clueless? As we know, perception becomes reality in the client’s eyes.

Prepared and confident communicators can adjust with the changing tides of a negotiation. They convey authority and expertise, convincing the prospective buyer that their solution is the right one.

Genuine communicators foster stronger bonds.

“Genuine” in this case means listening to your customers. One of the most important skills of an effective communicator is listening to other people speak, and doing so with sincere interest.

So go ahead – really listen. Listen to what the prospect is saying and pick up on what they’re not saying. Ask questions that show you heard their true concerns. Not only will you be able to tailor your message to the customer, they’ll feel valued and heard. Customers can tell when they mean nothing more than a number on the sales lead sheet.

It’s this personal touch that is lost on many companies, which is why it goes a long way with clients. In a world where customers have way too many options – some of them probably cheaper than you – being the sales team that shows genuine interest is a huge competitive advantage. Best of all, it’s free.

Effective communicators help teams function.

Being able to collaborate effectively means being able to communicate effectively. How do you truly sell your team on a new initiative? You don’t strong arm or threaten. (Well, I hope you don’t.) No, you communicate clearly and persuasively so that the team realizes that your goals and their goals are the same. That you’re all working together.

Maybe the sales department is adopting some new tech. Maybe a new approach is being rolled out. Whatever the new direction or project is, you need your team’s buy-in. It’s as important as convincing a client that they need to buy from you, so apply the same strategies.

Social communication demands effective communicators.

We all know the advantages of social selling. Cultivating relationships, warming up leads, dissolving buyer objections: social media seems born to be a sales team’s best friend. Whether you’re using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or some other platform, you can reach a large number of potential clients quickly and (relatively) cheaply.

Of course, in the wrong hands, social media can allow you to quickly damage your company’s image in front of a large number of potential clients. We’ve all heard the stories of brands that sent out an embarrassing tweet or misguided post. That’s why every team needs strong and effective communicators who understand what their audience wants to see on social media. They can capture the spirit of your company in a few words and create social communications that help close deals.

At the end of the day, business relationships aren’t that different from personal ones. Good communication can prevent misunderstandings, position opportunities in an attractive light, and foster lasting loyalty. So go ahead and help your team communicate effectively. You may just get that Hollywood ending.