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Every day I work with sales reps and leaders to identify their blind spots with communication. We all know the feeling of hearing or seeing ourselves recorded and thinking, “I really sound [or look] like that?” It can be hard to admit that you aren’t the perfect speaker. But it’s crucial to uncover your blind spots — and master them — in order to be more effective in sales (and everywhere else). Here, I’ll share three of the most common mistakes — and how to avoid them — people make when it comes to our number one source of communication: our voice.

We all know that gravelly, throaty, croaky kind of voice; it’s like the rep has turned into bacon sizzling in a pan. It's called “vocal fry.” Many people start a sentence strong with a deep breath and think they’re good to go. But then as they keep talking to finish their point, they run out of air and trail off, frying out the end of the sentence. Then they take another breath and start the next sentence, but again, they trail off and become croaky. If you do this, the impression you leave might be disinterest or even that you have doubts about what you’re saying. None of the implications are very good.

If you're sitting or standing without the best posture, you won’t breathe from the diaphragm to get enough air. Make sure you have good posture so that you can inhale completely; then open your throat and use a nice, full stream of air coming across your vocal cords. Be consistent from the beginning to the end of your sentence so it sounds like the whole sentence matters—not just the first half.

Upspeak is often associated with the “Valley Girl” stereotype, but unfortunately, both men and women (regardless of age or profession) often speak like this. You know what it’s like — the voice that continually goes up at the end of phrases and sentences, as if constantly implying "Okay? Right? You know?"

If you’re always inflecting those little tag questions, it can get pretty annoying. But more importantly, it sounds like you're constantly asking for affirmation. A salesperson with upspeak doesn’t inspire much confidence in the customer. Why should a customer want to build a relationship with you or purchase a product or service if they need to validate your statements every 30 seconds? Upspeak undermines your image of leadership, confidence, and authority.

Don’t you hate it when you get an email, and it's one giant run-on sentence with a thousand commas in the middle? That drives me crazy, and most people don’t realize they talk like that, too. While it's hard to read a run-on sentence, it's just as hard to wrap your head around what a person is saying if they go on … and on … and on …

Make a point and stop. Add a vocal period: Let your voice drop. Finish, pause, and then start your next sentence. If you can use vocal periods, this will actually help you avoid the first two pitfalls. It gives you a chance to breathe so you're not as likely to fall into that vocal fry situation. Plus, the deliberate period allows your voice to go down instead of up.

It’s crucial to uncover your blind spots — and master them — in order to be more effective in sales (and everywhere else).”

Dr. Laura Sicola | Founder, Vocal Impact Productions
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