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 world 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 how to rock all 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 such as 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 education and content create successful communication. They’re thinking that if they had the right words to say, they could convince somebody to buy a particular insurance policy or could create anything they wished … 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 what you’re doing 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 they 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 either could trust or could not trust that person, that they either liked or 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 bit 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 they don’t like you. Your job as a speaker, no matter how many people you are speaking to, is to showcase the best of who you are and to be likeable so that they want to have a relationship with you and want to listen to you. That’s what I’ve been working on for the past 25 years.
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. So your first job is to make them realize that you are happy now and that you are happy no matter where this conversation goes. You’re just a happy person, so that their thought is “Oh, this is a happy person. I wonder what he’s so happy about.” Then they’ll stay to hear more from you.
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, hitting that same note, thinking, “Wow, I’ve got great content and here’s my one note and nobody notices. Sometimes I’ll get a little louder if I get really excited, sometimes I’ll get a little softer, but I’m staying around this one note.”
That’s called monotone. You say, “I would never do that. How boring.” And yet 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.
But the truth is, there are 88 notes on a piano keyboard. I teach people how to access more melody so that they go down low, and then they’re up high, and what happens? I can emphasize certain words. I want this word to be exciting, so I’m going to go higher on that word. I want this word to be more exciting so I’m going to go down low for that. I use melody as a tool to create emphasis to make people stay with me, wondering what my melody is, wondering what sound I’m going to make next.
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.
So what do we need to do? We need to stop our voices from going down when we get to commas. We need to go up. Just going up like that tells your brain that Roger’s not done.
Every time you go down, you’re saying you’re off the hook. You’re saying, “I’m done. I’m finished talking to you.” But I don’t want that. I want people listening to me, hanging on my words, wondering what I’m going to say next, so I use melody to make that happen.
FELDMAN: Is there a melody that you should maintain throughout a speech or a presentation?
LOVE: There are certain melodies that create certain emotions. So I explained that I wanted to create happy as my first impression, right? Well, there are melodies that go with happy. When you go to a movie and the music starts to play and it’s a horror film, there are all these minor melodies.
Certain patterns of notes sound happy. Certain patterns sound dangerous or scary. Composers know this, but the good thing about just speaking is that you don’t have to go to that level. You just have to mix it up so that you’re not staying on the same note. Then learn the key issues. For example, happy goes higher. You don’t have to dissect the melody as if you’re Mozart.
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. When they know what you’re going to say next, they stop listening to you 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 using lots of high melodies. You’re saying, “I’m going to go up. I’m going to pretend it’s a question.”
FELDMAN: Isn’t that type of speech “uptalk” that some people criticize?
LOVE: Years ago, there were all kinds of negative feedback and articles that said if you go up when you get to a comma and make things sound like a question, it’s somehow 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.” So, your goal as a speaker is to keep the person engaged.
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. You appreciate their time, you’re happy to be here and you’re grateful. So what sounds go along with grateful? For grateful, we need to look at volume, because 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. You don’t sound very confident. You sound weak. It’s very easy for others 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 exact policies a client should have, volume is immediately perceived as confidence. When you’re louder, you sound stronger and more confident. People buying from you need a confident agent. They 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 someone 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 that person’s whole body, so that literally sound comes out of me and it vibrates the front of them and the sides of them. I want it to bounce off the walls behind them and vibrate the back of them, because sound creates vibrations that literally vibrate the people who 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. I fill up the room. Some of the sound fills up the room and some of the sound goes into the handset, so I 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. You can get as loud as you want but if you have melody in your voice, you can be as loud as you want. There’s no way to sound angry when you have 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 because they want you to be confident? I’m not shouting at anyone.
If I’m in a small room, I adjust my volume, but not as if I’m talking to myself. 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 content: “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 someone who delivers new information. 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 expert, I’m holding out some of the vowels.
FELDMAN: Can you sound too polished and professional?
LOVE: I don’t let people sound like Ted Baxter from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I’m not creating robotic voices that sound fake. I give people the tools to find out what’s authentic about their personalities and then to make sure they’re showcasing those things that are authentic about them. So if you’re a funny person, I’m trying to help you find your voice to showcase how funny you are. If you’re a caring person, I’m giving you the sounds that go along with caring.
Audio Tip: Find Your Authentic Voice