Kristin, a highly-experienced sales person, describes being frequently interrupted or “talked over” by her manager or peers. Andrea is a talented young sales person who is often ignored by older decision-makers. Daniel, a new sales leader, is frustrated because his team isn’t listening to him, making it difficult to excel in his new role. Despite talent, titles or experience, these three share a common problem. They are not being taken seriously. And not being taken seriously can cost you sales and career opportunities.
Vocal authority, or the ability to speak in a way that portrays confidence, credibility and demands respect is a critical component of success in sales and business. Yes, you can get by without it, but it’s going to be just that much harder for you.
How Your Voice Impacts Sales
Fair or not, the sound, tone and quality of your voice effects if and how others will listen to you. While you may be making a persuasive case, a lack of vocal authority can overshadow your message or cause your customer or team to doubt your credibility.
There are several things that can erode vocal authority. For example, a weak or breathy voice, mumbling or speaking too softly, and uptalking (the habit of ending sentences on a question). These aren’t specific to either gender, however there is one component of Vocal Authority that is genetically biased against women, and that is pitch.
Money and Vocal Authority
For many centuries, authority has been associated with a lower voice. A study of nearly 800 male CEO’s done by Duke and the University of California found that the CEO’s with deeper voices are paid on average, $187,000 more than the male CEO’s whose voices were on the higher end of the spectrum. Not only that, but the CEO’s with deeper voices also lead companies with $400 million more in assets that those companies run by males with higher voices. Sadly, there were not enough women CEO’s to do an equivalent study.
Does that mean women need to adopt a false lower voice to be heard? Absolutely not. It’s important to maintain your vocal authenticity. There are, however some things you can do to improve your vocal authority and command greater attention and respect.
How to Improve Your Vocal Authority:
1. Drop the non-questions. Make sure you are not ending your sentences on an up-tick? Like this? Which makes a statement sound like a question? This habit quickly erodes credibility and make you sound younger than you are. Visualizing a period at the end of your sentences can be helpful. It can be a difficult habit to break, so enlist support from those around you.
2. Expand your vocal register. Your voice is like a scale. You have access to many notes, but most people are only playing Chopsticks. And as anyone who’s heard more than a few bars of that tune knows, a lack of variety can get very boring, very quickly! Women in particular can benefit from exploring their lower register more and incorporating those lesser used notes into their repertoire. Check out these exercises for expanding your range.
3. Add Resonance. Are you often talked-over? You may need more resonance in your voice. Resonance is what amplifies your voice and makes it fuller and richer – without shouting. You can recognize it by that “buzz” you feel when you speak. Improve your resonance by experimenting with that “buzz.” Try humming and turning that hum into words.
3. Breathe from the diaphragm. Shallow breathing is often the cause of soft or breathy voices. Take a deep breath from the diaphragm, that muscle just below your rib cage, and speak on your exhale. Done regularly, this will give your voice much more power and resonance.
4. Let go of the Crutches. The Um’s, the ah’s, the so’s, the kind of’s…are credibility-killers. Eliminating them from your speech takes commitment and starts with awareness. Record yourself or ask a friend to count the crutch words you use in a conversation. Understand why you’re using them (are you stalling for time? Are you uncertain about what you’re saying?) and then think about how to replace them with a pause or a more powerful word choice. Get specific tips on eliminating weak words here.
Don’t let a lack of Vocal Authority derail your sale or limit your chances for advancement. Get in your best authentic voice, download my Free Power Warm-up here.