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Want to inspire more clients and wow audiences? Try working on something that you probably haven’t paid enough attention to your voice. Your voice is your most powerful sales tool. It is how the word hears you. It starts conversations. It draws interest and attraction. And most important, it tells stories that captivate and motivate people. It’s not the story itself that moves an audience or a prospect, it’s how the story is told. It’s how the words, tempo, pitch, volume and melody all come together. Your voice has the power to turn indifferent prospects into raving fans (or fleeing crowds).
So what does your voice say, and how can you make it better? In this month’s issue, we asked one of the world’s most recognized vocal coaches, Roger Love, how to make your “sales voice” sing and rock all of your presentations and seminars.
Roger has been a vocal coach for many marquee stars, including the Beach Boys, the Jacksons, Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Reese Witherspoon, Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell. Roger has also coached world- class speakers like Anthony Robbins, Brendon Burchard and Suze Orman to find their “perfect voice.”
In this discussion with InsuranceNewsNet Publisher Paul Feldman, Roger explains how to find the voice that is authentic to you.
FELDMAN: Most people don’t associate a vocal coach with what they do, but a person’s voice is an extremely important part of all their communications, whether it’s one-on-one or with a group. How do you make the case for why it’s important for salespeople to train their voices?
LOVE: Most people are not thinking that voice is the ultimate communication tool. They’re thinking that if they had the right words to say, they could convince somebody to buy a particular insurance policy or anything they wished to create as the outcome for that communication.
But the truth is that although we live in a content-based society, the actual words you use count for less than 7 percent of whether anyone actually believes anything that you have to say. Tonality, or the sound your voice makes, counts for 38 percent. The rest is physiology, which is what you’re doing with your hands, your body and also internally, such as breathing. They say that it takes less than a second for people to decide whether they like you enough to listen to what you have to say. There was a study just published in New Scientist magazine in which people recorded the same sentence and extracted just one word from the sentence. Then the researchers played that one word for hundreds of people and asked them to attach a trait using only one word: honest, truthful, angry. They found the sounds of one word were enough to make those participants believe that they through they either could trust or not trust that person, that they either liked or they didn’t like that person.
Here you have legions of insurance agents, salespeople and businesspeople who are communicating all day. They’re on the phone, talking to clients or talking to prospects. They’re in meetings, with one person, families, larger groups, and they are focusing on the content. They’re thinking, “I’m going to tell them about this policy. I’m going to tell them about the changes in the industry.”
But the truth is, before people are able to care even the slightest about your content, they must decide they like you enough to listen to you. Even if you have the greatest insurance policy ever created, they’re not going to care. If you can control the way other people perceive you, then you have ultimate influence over those people. You can direct the conversation however you want because you are influencing what they’re thinking.
FELDMAN: What are some strategies you can use to improve your voice?
LOVE: The first strategy is that when you speak, you must immediately come across as happy. People do not want to speak to anyone who is sad or depressed. They want to be around happy people.
You have about a second or two when you start to speak before people start forming impressions about you. Their thought is, “Oh, this is a happy person. I wonder what they’re so happy about.” Then they’ll stay to hear more from you.
Vocal Tip #1: Use Melody
“Pretend you are singing while you are speaking. Move it around, shake it up, swoop, dive, soar. Let your voice be as interesting as you are.”
FELDMAN: How do you show “happy” with your voice?
LOVE: I add more melody to my voice. We all have a melody, a pattern of notes that we speak that are attached to words.
I could go to a piano and I could take the words that you’re speaking and figure out what notes those are on the piano. Most people speak with almost no melody. It’s as if they were
just one note on a piano, so they just keep speaking on the same note over and over and over again. That’s called monotone. You say, “I would never do that. How boring.” And the answer is that 95 percent of every communication that people make is monotone. If you’re not doing monotone, you might be doing monotone plus one or plus two. So you have your little note that you’re comfortable on and then when you get really excited you go to this note and then you come back to the safe note. If I’m a really, really excited person, I might have three notes.
FELDMAN: How can people train themselves to use more melody?
LOVE: When we get to a comma, most of us are taught that we’re supposed to go down. When I say go down I mean I literally go down in melody. That’s a bad melody because would you really buy a song that sounded like this? The hills are alive [pause] with the sound [long pause] of music.
FELDMAN: No, I wouldn’t.
LOVE: Music has a melody that leads you from these notes to the next notes and then to the next notes and to the next notes, and you are well aware that you are going on a beautiful journey. Speaking has to be the same journey with melody.
If you stay on the same note, people think they know what you’re going to sound like and they think they know what you’re going to say next. Then they stop listening because they realize they’re smarter than you are. Who wants to have a conversation with somebody when you know what they’re going to say all the time?
Melody keeps people on their toes. Specifically, going up for commas and periods or staying on the same note and lots of high melodies. You’re saying, “I’m going to go up. I’m going to pretend it’s a question.”
Vocal Tip #2: Drop your jaw
“Most people simply do not open their mouths enough to let the sound come out unobstructed. I do not mean that you should smile and go very wide. I want you to simply drop your jaw down a bit and not keep your teeth do close together. This will send more sound into the cheek area, where t will bounce around and come out more resonant and full.”
FELDMAN: Isn’t that type of speech “uptalk” that some people criticize?
LOVE: Years ago, there were all kinds of negative feedback that said if you go up when you get to a comma and make things sound like a question, it’s some- how bad. But there’s an infinite number of new studies that say those old studies were baloney.
If you go up more, you actually are engaging people because they think you’re asking them a question. They respond automatically in the caveman part of their brain, “Oh, did he ask me a question? Maybe I better listen because I might be called upon for an answer.”
FELDMAN: Once you’ve set the tone, what comes next?
LOVE: The next emotion that you want to create in the audience is that you’re absolutely grateful that you have the opportunity to have this communication. So what sounds go along with grateful? For grateful, we need to look at volume be- cause most people speak too softly. They are used to communication that happens all day on the phone and they certainly don’t need to have a lot of volume.
When you don’t have a lot of volume, you don’t sound very strong or confident. You sound weak. It’s very easy for some- one to interrupt you because they’re louder than you are. If you’re selling something and you are the expert who is confident that these are the ex- act policies a client should have, volume immediately is perceived as confidence. When you’re louder, you sound stronger and more confident. People buying from an agent need to know that agent is an expert and that expert has provided them with exactly what they need.
FELDMAN: How do you prevent your volume from being a turnoff?
LOVE: Some people are worried about volume. But I say you should be filling up the room. You should pretend that some- one is five to 10 feet away from you and you should speak to that.
When I’m in a room with someone, I’m not trying to make my voice go only to that person. I’m trying to fill up the room with my voice. I’m trying to make it so that my voice vibrates their whole body, because sound literally vibrates the people that are in proximity. So I want to fill up the room with my voice.
When I’m speaking on the phone, I don’t put the receiver right here really close to my mouth. I move the receiver far away from my mouth and I speak in the room. Some of the sound fills up the room and some of the sound goes into the handset, so you need to be louder. Now people say to me, “If I sound louder, I’m going to sound like I’m angry.”
But I say, not when you mix it with melody. When you mix volume with melody, you become a personality. You become a joyful, full-of-life personality, so you overcome people with positive perceptions.
How bad is it to overcome people with the fact that you’re happy and you’re happy that they’re here? How bad is it to overwhelm people with confidence be- cause they want you to be confident? I’m not shouting at anyone.
People think that if they gave more, then their audience would think this was vaudeville or Broadway or something. But the truth is that people want to be entertained, and you’re either an entertaining speaker or you’re not.
You may think that’s a lot of work and you don’t feel like being all that presentational or you don’t feel like being all that happy and charming and fun. I would say, great, then you don’t really feel like selling a lot of insurance policies. You really don’t feel like being the highlight of that person’s day. You really don’t feel like being the topic of conversation when someone gets home that night and says, “Wow, I really had a great time with Joe today, you know? He was such a nice guy. I didn’t realize I cared about my insurance person. I’m not sure why I care about my insurance person but suddenly I care about my insurance person and I’m looking forward to the next meeting.”
FELDMAN: Once you sound “happy” and “grateful,” what’s next?
LOVE: Now you can talk about what you want to talk about. You can deliver con- tent. “I’m an expert. Here are the policies. Here’s what I want to talk about in today’s meeting. I want to show you these things that I found for you. I want to make these suggestions.”
Now, when you’re going into “expert” voice you keep the volume, you keep the melody, but you slow down your words. We’re dealing with pace, which is the speed of the words. An expert is deliver- ing new information, so you might know all about your insurance policy, but your audience doesn’t know anything about your insurance policy, so you slow down your words. The whole conversation starts to slow down. The words are a little bit elongated. Now that I’m talking as an ex- pert, I’m holding out some of the vowels.
FELDMAN: Does entertainment value equal sales?
LOVE: If you’re delivering no entertainment value at all, just content, then there’s no reason for your clients to want to have a relationship with you. They’re just tolerating you in order to get to the information.
Just because people don’t have a lot of volume or melody doesn’t mean that they don’t have any personality. But we need to look at what level of personality, pitch, pace, tone, melody, volume you should be using to accomplish the goal of creating relationships. So, when you get up in front of 10 people or 100 people, they knew that they picked the right man or woman to do it because your passion is evident. Your authenticity is evident. Your knowledge is evident, and they care about you and they’re glad they picked you.
But I want to feel that way when I go to the grocery store. I go up to the checker, who is used to dealing with boring people all day. I look at her name0tag and say, “Hi, Roberta, how are you?” with lots of melody. And because I was louder than the last 400 customers, she immediately looks up. She heard the melody, and she’s like, “This guy’s happy!” Then she’ll suddenly speak louder.
This is mirroring. When you’re walking down the street and someone’s walking toward you and says “Hi,” before you can even think about it you say “Hi.” Now, if he says, “Hey,” you’d say “Hey.” We all do this.
FELDMAN: How do you mirror when speaking in front of a group?
LOVE: There’s an energy that comes from the group. They are reacting. They are making noises. They may be laughing, smiling, serious, looking away. You learn to read the group, and that’s how you know to make changes. But you also have practiced your pitch, pace, melody, volumes, and tones of your voice. You’ve practiced in every communication so that when you step on stage, you’re just being yourself. You’re just being the same character.
You don’t wait until you get in front of people before you decide “now I should have more melody” and “I wonder how much melody I should have.” You don’t wait until you get in front of people be- fore you say, “Oh, maybe I should be louder.” You learn these things. You learn how to have more volume and more melody. You learn when you should be fast and slow.
Why would you do it without thinking? Because you certainly don’t want to have a conversation about selling an insurance policy while thinking, “I wonder if my melody is good.” It’s got to be the fastest path to unconscious confidence. If you’re thinking about it, you can’t be authentic.
FELDMAN: How do you develop the habit of speaking with melody?
LOVE: Here’s my first rule: You need to change the way you breathe, because the way that air comes into the body and comes out changes the sounds you make. Most people might go to yoga classes or take some exercise classes and they might hear about diaphragmatic breathing. This is the idea of breathing in through your nose, pretending you have a balloon in your stomach, filling up your stomach with air, and then exhaling and letting your stomach fall in.
Now here’s the tip — I only speak while my stomach is coming back in. When I do that, my stomach becomes an accelerator pedal that decides how much air comes out. If you’re speaking by raising your chest and shoulders and your stomach isn’t coming in and out, you are holding your breath the entire time.
If you stop your stomach coming in, you’ll sound asphyxiated. More than 90 percent of your readers are holding their breath while they’re speaking. Why would anyone want to hold their breath while they’re speaking?
If you breathe through your nose, let your stomach come forward and let your stomach come back in slowly a little bit at a time while speaking; then the words ride out on a beautiful sol- id stream of air that creates the perfect melody, the perfect volume, the perfect tone and resonance.
FELDMAN: You talk a lot about nasal voices being a turnoff for audiences. How do you prevent that?
LOVE: The reason it’s nasal is because you’re not breathing correctly. When there’s insufficient air being pushed out of the mouth, air finds an easier way out and it just goes to the sinuses. So it’s almost impossible to speak nasally when you bring your stomach in because it pushes more air out and then more sound comes out of your mouth instead of trying to get out of your nose.
That nasality is the No. 1 thing that drives people crazy. No one wants to kiss a nasal-sounding insurance person on the mouth.
FELDMAN: That is good advice — to speak when you are exhaling. But why breathe through the nose only?
LOVE: There are filters in the nose called turbinate’s. When air goes in through the nose, it becomes moist air and it doesn’t dry out your throat.
Don’t you have to make calls all day? Don’t you have meetings all day and night? Well, what happens if your throat gets dry and your cords get all red and puffy and swollen? You’re going to lose your voice.
You’re going to be all scratchy and you’re going to sound less influential. So breathing in through your nose means that you can quadruple the amount that you could speak in a day. Read the longer version online to learn an exercise to lower your larynx.
FELDMAN: What is your foolproof system for getting rid of uh’s and um’s?
LOVE: You learn to leave silence at the commas so that when you get to a com- ma, you go up in melody, go silent and you breathe. The problem is that most people are not inserting enough breaths into their conversation.
When you get to a comma, you close your mouth because you’re only sup- posed to breathe in through your nose. You can’t possibly say um when your mouth is closed.
The second thing that I teach people is to sustain all the words together. In other words, connect all the words together until I get to a comma. If I connect all the words together until I get to a comma, there’s no space in between the words. People tend to chunk words together. Here are a couple of words … then here are a couple more words … and here are a couple more words. They’re not connected together.
By connecting all the words together until I take a breath and then closing my mouth before jumping back into the sentence, it’s actually quite easy to lose all uh’s and um’s.
FELDMAN: I heard a funny story about how you cured the uh’s and um’s in your household.
LOVE: [Laughing] My wife and I told our kids when they were growing up that uh and um were swear words. I started them very early. As soon as they were speaking, if any of them said uh or um, I would say, “That’s a bad word.” Then my older daughter would correct my son. We should teach our kids that. We should teach ourselves that.
FELDMAN: Can you give us an example of how deals have gone sour be- cause of vocal quality?
LOVE: I was hired by Quicken Home Loans/Rock Financial in Detroit to work with 300 mortgage bankers who were very good on the phone trying to sell refi’s except when it came down to say, “OK, now give me your credit card so that I can charge the 150 bucks to get the loan start- ed.” What would prospects say? “Oh, hey buddy, can I call you back tomorrow?”
They weren’t good at closing, and I taught them why. It was because the sounds they were making were “I’m your buddy, I’m your buddy, I’m your buddy,” but there wasn’t enough chest voice when it came time to talk about closing. There wasn’t enough volume when it came time to get the credit cards.
There are certain sounds that will help influence others. Singers know this and great speakers know this, so there’s no reason that we can’t put these into easy practice. It’s simple. Talk with more melody. Talk louder. Get rid of the uh’s and um’s. Learn about chest, middle and head voices. Read more about this in the long version online at bitly.com/innlove.
Vocal Tip #3: No Whispering
“When you whisper you send a tremendous amount of extra air to the cords, which makes them dry and irritated. This is actually worse than screaming and shouting.”
FELDMAN: You have helped many people get on stage and be their best. What are some strategies people can use to get over their fear of speaking in public?
LOVE: First of all, public speaking is the No. 1 fear in America still, and I’m amazed. Don’t we live in a great society where our biggest worry is having to speak in front of other people?
But given that, what is this fear based on? Why is your body doing that? It’s all about the autonomic nervous system. When you are in a situation where you perceive danger, your body gives you a huge amount of energy to get out of that danger by either fighting stronger than you normally do or fleeing.
There are stories of people who lift cars when there’s someone trapped underneath. How did they lift cars? Of course, they damaged their ligaments and ten- dons and probably broke bones, but why in that second could they lift a part of a car that they couldn’t before? That’s the autonomic nervous system giving you extra energy.
I start with the mindset. First of all, fear is a wonderful thing if you can turn it into positive energy. Learn an exercise to turn fear into energy in the long version online.
I’d be backstage with Bruce Springsteen and he’d be all nervous and freaked out and he’d want to throw up. Then he would throw up and say, “Now I’m ready for the stage.” You’re backstage with Bar- bra Streisand during the heyday of Barbra Streisand, and she’d be all nervous and she’d want to throw up and she’d say, “Uh, I feel like I’m going to throw up. I can’t sing tonight. I don’t want to do it.”
The exact same emotions, but Bruce realized that in order for him to go out and but The Boss, he needed that extra energy. Streisand was like, “Uh, my stomach hurts. I probably shouldn’t sing.” It’s how we look at it.
FELDMAN: I hear a lot of experienced speakers in this business claim that they don’t need further training. What would you say to them?
LOVE:: Even the greatest speakers in the world have coaches. The greatest golfers in the world all have coaches because they’re learning the tips and techniques that will not only keep them being great but will take them to the next level.
When my people get up on stage or when they’re in a meeting, you don’t know why, but you want to give them the shirt off your back. You just like them. You want to buy something from them. You’re entertained by them. You’re engaged by them. They seem to care about you, and you care about them. Why is that a bad thing?
To sign up on NASP for the 45 Day Challenge Influence Featuring Roger Love please visit : http://www.nasp.com/pr/programs/voiceOfInfluence.asp
Plus, for a longer version of this article with audio annotations, visit bitly.com/innlove
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