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Communication Model

Communication, the exchange of information or ideas between sender and receiver, is a challenging aspect in your personal life, at school, work, and especially in selling.

Today, it’s even more complex with business being conducted around the world and with varying communication methods. In the high-speed business environment, communication blunders can cost you more than you might think. The first two seconds of communication are so important that it takes another four minutes to add 50 percent more information to an impression-positive or negative-within that communication. [1]

Communication has often been referred to as a soft skill, which includes other competencies such as social graces, personality traits, language abilities, and ability to work with other people.

Soft skills also encompass emotional intelligence, which Adele B. Lynn, in her book The EQ Interview: Finding Employees with High Emotional Intelligence, defines as “a person’s ability to manage herself as well as her relationship with others so she can live her intentions.” [2]

But in today’s business world, communication has become part of the new “hard skills” category, a technical job requirement, because of the critical role that it plays in business. [3]

According to Peter Post, great-grandson of the late Emily Post, “Your skills can get you in the door; your people skills are what can seal the deal.” [4]

It is almost impossible to be in sales without developing relationships inside your organization and with your customers.

Your relationship skills build trust, allow you to be a true partner, and help solve your customer’s problems; both internal trust and external communication are essential keys to your ability to deliver on your promises. How are these qualities intrinsically related? The way in which you communicate can determine the level of trust that your colleagues or customers have in you. [5] Just like relationships are the cornerstone of trust, communication is the foundation of relationships.

Nearly 75 percent of communications that are received are interpreted incorrectly. At the same time, interestingly, many people consider themselves good communicators.

The telling disconnect occurs because people tend to assume that they know what other people mean or people assume that others know what they mean. This is compounded by the fact that people tend to hear what they want to hear-that is, a person may interpret elements of a conversation in such a way that the taken meanings contribute to his already established beliefs. When you put these assumptions together, communication can easily become “miscommunication.” [6]

The standard model of communication has evolved based on two parties-the sender and the receiver-exchanging information or ideas.

The model includes major processes and functions categorized as encoding, decoding, response, and feedback.[8] In addition, the model accounts for noise, which symbolizes anything that might disrupt the sending or receiving of a message.[7]

If you send a message to a friend, you are the sender. A phone is the channel, the method of communication. When your friend, the receiver, reads the message, he responds providing feedback.

If he was talking to another friend while reading your message, that conversation would be considered noise as it would be interfering with the communication.

If you call a prospect to set up a meeting, you are the sender. The message is the meeting information (e.g., date, time, and place). The channel is the telephone, and the receiver is the client. Assume, however, that the prospect responds to you and agrees to the meeting. But because he was checking his e-mails (which is noise), he puts the wrong time on his calendar. When you come for the appointment, he’s out of the office, and your sales call doesn’t take place.

Now imagine the challenges if you started explaining the features and benefits of a complex product or negotiating a contract. You can see why understanding the communication process is so important in selling.

Positive e-mail messages are likely to be interpreted as neutral.

Neutral e-mail messages are likely to be perceived as negative.

People who send e-mails overrate their ability to communicate feelings.

There is a gap between how a sender feels when he writes the e-mail and the way the emotional content is communicated that can cause an error in decoding.

One simple e-mail can lead to a communication debacle, if the e-mail is not clearly written and well thought out from the recipient’s point of view. [9]

Effective Communication

The following are examples of general statements that can be communicated more effectively when made into specific statements. How do you avoid the pitfalls of poor communication and build productive business relationships? Always communicate in a timely manner and in the method your customer prefers.

One of the key elements of being a good communicator is having empathy. That means thinking about your communication from the receiver’s point of view. Although it’s always best to be candid, you should deliver information from the receiver’s point of view and address her concerns. [10]

You can express empathy in your communications by saying or writing, “You have every right to be upset. I understand how you must feel. I apologize for the late delivery. Let’s work on a new process that will help prevent it from happening again.” [11]

Quick responses, whether verbal or via electronic methods, can be less effective than those that are considered and can even cause misunderstanding.

Although a timely response is critical, it’s worth a few minutes to think about exactly what you want to say, before you say it (or type it).

It’s always best to avoid confusion and clearly say what you mean by framing your message in a way that is easily understood by all receivers.

It’s also a good idea to avoid buzz words (or jargon)—those words, phrases, or acronyms that are used only in your company. If they can’t be avoided, explain them in the same communication terms.

Business communication should be short and to the point.

Your customers are busy and need information-whether it’s a proposal, report, or follow-up to a question-in a clear, concise way.

It’s best to avoid being verbose, especially in any business plans, proposals, or other significant documents. [13]

Being specific in your communication not only gives clarity to your message but also helps set your customer’s expectations.

In other words, your customer won’t expect something you can’t deliver if you are clear about what exactly you can deliver and when. The same is true for prices.

Specificity avoids surprises and sets expectations.

It’s best to be proactive with communication, and if you owe someone a response, do it sooner rather than later. If you are slow to respond to questions and communication, it will be difficult to develop trust, as prolonged responses may seem to imply that you are taking action without informing the customer what it is you are doing.

Timing is especially important when you are communicating a negative response or bad news. Don’t put it off; do it as soon as possible and give your customer the benefit of complete information.

While you may think you are ready to communicate, it’s a good idea to stop and listen first. Creating your message is only half of communication; listening is the other half.

But it’s difficult to listen because we listen faster than we speak-that is, based on what the other person is saying, we are already constructing responses in our minds before they have even finished. As a result, many people are guilty of “listening too fast.” [14]

Cicero once said that it is good thing that humans were given one mouth and two ears, in light of the way we use them. [15]

According to Alan Gulick, a Starbucks Corporation spokesperson, if every Starbucks employee misheard one $10 order each day, it would cost the company one billion dollars in a year. [16]

That’s why Starbucks has a process to teach their employees how to listen. Although listening may seem passive, it is actively linked to success: One study conducted in the insurance industry found that better listeners held higher positions and got promoted more than those who did not have developed listening skills. [17]

Confirm that you heard the sender correctly by saying something like, “Just to be sure I understand, we are going to move forward with twelve cases for your initial order, then revisit your inventory in five days.”

If you decode a message from your customer incorrectly, the communication is ineffective and could even be costly. In the example above, the customer might have said in response, “I meant that the initial order should be five cases, and we’ll revisit the inventory in twelve days.” That’s a big difference.

Questions are a way to gather more information and learn about your customer and their business. They are also an excellent way to demonstrate that you are communicating by listening.

You learned in that asking the right questions is critical to being a successful salesperson. Focus on listening and asking the right questions, and you’ll be rewarded with great information.

Although multitasking has seemingly become a modern virtue, focus actually helps create more effective communication. Stop and focus on your customer when he is speaking.

This is a sign of respect, and this concentration allows you to absorb more information. There’s nothing more important than what your customer has to say. [18]

While it may seem like you will remember everything that is said at a meeting or during a conversation, taking notes signals that you are listening, and it provides you with an accurate record of what was said.

“The palest ink is better than the best memory.” [19]

It’s important to remember that you will be communicating with many different people about many different topics in selling.

Sometimes, you will be communicating one-on-one and sometimes you will be communicating with a group. Just as people have varying social styles it’s important to know that people also absorb information differently and comprehend information in four distinct ways:

Why. They want to know the reasons for doing something
What. They want to know the facts about it.
How. They want to know only the information they need to get it done.
What if. They want to know the consequences of doing it.

Verbal Communication
An introduction, a presentation, a telephone conversation, a videoconference call: these are all examples of verbal communication because information is transmitted orally.

Despite the ubiquitous use of technology in the business world, verbal communication is the most common method of exchanging information and ideas. Verbal communication is powerful, fast, and natural and includes voice inflections that help senders and receivers understand the message more clearly.

Verbal communication may take place face-to-face, such as an in-person conversation or group meeting, speech, or presentation. It could also take place by phone in an individual conversation, a conference call, or even a voice mail.

Voice inflection, the verbal emphasis you put on certain words, can have a significant impact on the meaning of what you say. In fact, the same words can take on completely different meaning based on the inflection you use.

For example, if you say the sentence in with an inflection on a different word each time, the sentence communicates something completely different each time.

Face-to-face meetings also provide the opportunity to use and interpret other visual cues to increase the effectiveness of your communication. Verbal communication is especially important throughout the steps of the selling process.

Your choice of words can make the difference in someone’s decision to first hear your sales presentation, and your presentation can determine whether that person will purchase your product or service.

Non Verbal Communication
You have, no doubt, used and noticed nonverbal communication in virtually every personal encounter you have had.

A gesture, a smile, a nod, eye contact, what you are wearing, the fact that you are frequently checking your cell phone for text messages, and how close you stand to someone are all examples. Nonverbal communication is extremely powerful. some studies indicate that the influence from nonverbal communication such as tone and visuals can have a greater impact than the spoken word.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a psychologist, is considered a pioneer in the area of body language and nonverbal communication. His research includes an equation, called the Mehrabian formula, [22] that is frequently used to define the relative impact of verbal and nonverbal messages.

The Mehrabian formula is used to explain situations in which verbal communication and nonverbal communication do not match. In other words, when facial expressions contradict words, people tend to believe the facial expressions. [23]

When you meet someone for a business meeting, it’s best to shake hands. [24] They are two times more likely to remember you than if you don’t shake hands. [25] The exact history of the handshake is unknown; however, at one time it was used to prove that you had no weapons in your hands. [26] A good handshake is essential in business; the first impression begins with a handshake and sets the tone.[27]

Body Language

Body language is what we say without words; nonverbal communication using your body includes elements such as gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, a head tilt, a nod, and even where and how you sit.

Body language can indicate an unspoken emotion or sentiment that a person might be feeling either consciously or subconsciously. It is important that you are aware of what you communicate with your body language and to understand and respond to the cues you are getting from someone else’s body language.

Common examples of body language and what they mean.[33] [34]

Crossed arms: discomfort

Spreading fingers: territorial display

Mirroring (body position): comfort

Tapping fingers: frustration

Hands on hips: there is an issue

Hands behind back: leave me alone
Hands clasped, thumbs up: positive,
thumbs down: negative

Hands clasped, forming a steeple: confidence

Touch neck: insecurity

Crossed legs: comfort

Written Communication

Although verbal and nonverbal communications usually take place in real time, written communication has a longer consideration period. The sender must encode the message in words to be communicated on paper or a screen. [35]

Written communication is preferred to verbal communication when careful consideration is important or the information needs to be permanently recorded. Because the nature of written communication is such that it allows time for consideration and composition, the standards for writing are much higher than for a casual conversation. Customers and colleagues alike expect clear, concise written communications.

Use the following tips for written communication:

Short and sweet. Shorter is always better when it comes to business correspondence. It’s best to include all pertinent facts with concise information.

Grammar. Sentences should be structured correctly and use proper grammar, including a subject and a verb in each sentence. [37]

Check spelling. Use the spell-check tool on your computer. There is no excuse for a misspelled word.

Just the facts. Stick to the facts to maximize the impact of your written communications; leave the emotional topics for verbal dialogue.


Communication is vital in selling and is the foundation of relationships.

The communication model describes exactly how communication is sent and received and provides clues as to how to improve the effectiveness of communication.

Empathy is thinking about your communication from the receiver’s point of view. Empathy helps build an emotional connection.

Effective communication is clear, concise, brief, specific, and timely.

Creating your message is only one half of communication; listening is the other half. Being a good listener improves your ability to be a good communicator. There are three types of communication: verbal, which involves speaking to one or many people to convey a message; nonverbal, which includes body language and other observations about people; and written, which includes a message that is read in hard copy, e-mail, text message, instant message, Facebook, Twitter, blog, or other Internet-based written communication.

Verbal communication provides the opportunity to change communication with inflection, or the emphasis put on certain words in a conversation or presentation.

Nonverbal communication provides additional insights into the sending and receiving of a message through gestures, eye contact, proximity, and other elements of body language.

Your handshake can be one of the most powerful elements of nonverbal communication and sets the tone for the meeting or interview ahead. Written communication includes printed words designed to communicate a message on paper or a screen and is more permanent than verbal or nonverbal communication.

Written communication is best used for factual information, whereas verbal communication is best used for emotional topics or those that require discussion.

The best method of communication depends on your customer’s preferences and on the situation.


Name the three types of communication and give an example for each one. How might the communication be misinterpreted in each example? How might the communication be made more effective in each example?
Visit a local retailer that uses personal selling and ask a salesperson questions about purchasing a product or service. Identify three types of communication the salesperson uses. Were they effective? Why or why not?


[1] Dave Rothfield, “Communicating Simply, Directly Will Improve You, Your Business,”Orlando Business Journal, May 15, 2009,http://orlando.bizjournals.com/orlando/stories/2009/05/18/smallb2.html?t=printable(accessed July 12, 2009).

[2] “Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence,” Selling Power Hiring & Recruiting eNewsletter, October 15, 2008,http://www.sellingpower.com/content/newsletter/issue.php?pc=878 (accessed March 16, 2010).

[3] Patricia M. Buhler, “Managing in the New Millennium: Six Tips to More Effective Communication,” Supervision 70, no. 7 (July 2009): 19.

[4] The Emily Post Institute, http://www.emilypost.com/business/index.htm (accessed July 13, 2009).

[5] Gail Fann Thomas, Roxanne Zoliln, and Jackie L. Harman, “The Central Role of Communication in Developing Trust and Its Effect on Employee Involvement,” Journal of Business Communication 46, no. 3 (July 2009): 287.

[6] Patricia M. Buhler, “Managing in the New Millennium: Six Tips to More Effective Communication,” Supervision 70, no. 7 (July 2009): 19.
[7] George E. Belch and Michael A. Belch, Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2009), 146.

[9] Jeremy Dean, “Avoid Email Miscommunication,” PsyBlog,http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/10/avoid-email-miscommunication.php (accessed July 15, 2009).

[10] Steve Adubato, “Empathy Is Essential to Effective Communication,” NJBiz,http://www.stand-deliver.com/njbiz/2008/020408.pdf (accessed July 14, 2009).

[11] Mary Ellen Guffey, Business Communication, 6th ed. (Mason, OH: South-Western Publishing, 2008), 280.

[12] JetBlue Airways, “An Apology from David Neeleman,”http://www.jetblue.com/about/ourcompany/apology/index.html (accessed February 18, 2010).

[13] Patricia M. Buhler, “Managing in the New Millennium: Six Tips to More Effective Communication,” Supervision 70, no. 7 (July 2009): 19.
[14] Jeffrey J. Denning, “How to Improve Your Listening Skills, Avoid Mix-ups,”Ophthalmology Times 26, no. 10 (May 15, 2001): 28.

[15] Patricia M. Buhler, “Managing in the New Millennium: Six Tips to More Effective Communication,” Supervision 70, no. 7 (July 2009): 19.

[17] Beverly Davenport Sypher, Robert N. Bostrom, and Joy Hart Seibert, “Listening, Communication Abilities and Success at Work,” Journal of Business Communication 26, no. 4 (Fall 1989): 293.

[18] Jeffrey J. Denning, “How to Improve Your Listening Skills, Avoid Mix-ups,”Ophthalmology Times 26, no. 10 (May 15, 2001): 28.

[19] “A Lesson on Listening,”Selling Power Pharmaceuticals eNewsletter, April 9, 2008,http://www.sellingpower.com/content/newsletter/issue.php?pc=814 (accessed March 16, 2010).
[20] Natalie Zmuda, “Pepsi, Coke Try to Outdo Each Other with Rays of Sunshine,”Advertising Age, January 19, 2009, http://adage.com/abstract.php?article_id=133859(accessed July 14, 2009).

[22] Albert Mehrabian, “Silent Messages,” http://www.kaaj.com/psych/smorder.html(accessed July 15, 2009).

[23] “Mehrabian’s Communication Research,” Businessballs.com,http://www.businessballs.com/mehrabiancommunications.htm (accessed July 15, 2009).

[24] Terri Morrison, “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands,”http://www.getcustoms.com/2004GTC/Articles/new011.html (accessed July 23, 2009).

[25] Rachel Zupek, “The Worst Way to Shake Hands,” CNN.com,http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/11/05/cb.hand.shake/index.html (accessed July 13, 2009).

[26] Rachel Zupek, “The Worst Way to Shake Hands,” CNN.com,http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/11/05/cb.hand.shake/index.html (accessed July 13, 2009).
[27] “Good Handshake Key to Interview Success,” BC Jobs,http://www.bcjobs.ca/re/career-advice/career-advice-articles/interview-advice/good-handshake-key-to-interview-success (accessed July 12, 2009).

[28] Rachel Zupek, “The Worst Way to Shake Hands,” CNN.com,http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/11/05/cb.hand.shake/index.html (accessed July 13, 2009).

[29] John Gates, “A Handshake Lesson from Goldilocks,” Free-Resume-Help.com,http://www.free-resume-help.com/handshake-interview.html (accessed July 12, 2009).

[30] “Good Handshake Key to Interview Success,” BC Jobs,http://www.bcjobs.ca/re/career-advice/career-advice-articles/interview-advice/good-handshake-key-to-interview-success (accessed July 12, 2009).

[31] “Good Handshake Key to Interview Success,” BC Jobs,http://www.bcjobs.ca/re/career-advice/career-advice-articles/interview-advice/good-handshake-key-to-interview-success (accessed July 12, 2009).
[32] “Good Handshake Key to Interview Success,” BC Jobs,http://www.bcjobs.ca/re/career-advice/career-advice-articles/interview-advice/good-handshake-key-to-interview-success (accessed July 12, 2009).

[33] Kathryn Tolbert, “What We Say without Words,” Washington Post,http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2008/06/23/GA2008062301669.html (accessed July 15, 2009).

[34] Neal Hendes, “How to Read Body Language: Ten Tips,” EzineArticles,http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Read-Body-Language-Top-10-Tips&id=991635(accessed July 15, 2009).

[37] Patricia M. Buhler, “Managing in the New Millennium: Six Tips to More Effective Communication,” Supervision 70, no. 7 (July 2009): 19.