People Are Not Mind Readers. You’ve Got to Tell Them What You Want.

Jim was having a hissy fit. “Those salespeople are worthless! They can’t get anything right!” He slammed down the phone and began talking to himself.

I’ve known Jim for a long time. He tends to get a bit hot under the collar when things don’t go his way. He’s also not the best communicator in the world.

In this case he was upset because of some aging inventory in the warehouse. He expected his salespeople to get rid of it. Problem was, nobody knew the stuff was there except Jim, and he forgot to tell the salespeople. A classic case of miscommunication.

Good communication is critical in business. It’s also rare. In fact, good communication is rare in life in general. Maybe that’s why the US divorce rare is close to 50%.

Good communication has two components: sending and receiving. It’s not enough to just send a message, you must ensure the other person gets your message. More than that, you must be sure they understand your message, acknowledge it, and agree to act on it. In terms of communication, it can be a Yes or a No. The answer is not as important as the fact that they answer.

“The meaning of your communication is the response that you get.”

  • Genie LaBorde

In this age of high technology, we’re all overwhelmed with too much information. We’re fair game to all kinds of stuff, some important, much of it unimportant. When we communicate with another person, we may think we’ve got their undivided attention, but too often we don’t. We send a message, but it’s not being fully received. In fairness to the others, they may even think they got it, but because they’re multitasking or otherwise distracted, they’re only getting part of the transmission.

You can’t let this get to your ego, but others care more about themselves than about your stuff. You’re a distant second in terms of priority. Unlike certain dog breeds who always put you first.

Take my dog Tinker for example. I swear he slept with one eye open, anticipating my next move. He was always ready for action, always ready to please. No wonder I love dogs!

So, what’s the solution? Believe it or not, part of the answer goes all the way back to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who died around 322 BC. Apparently, more than two thousand years before the age of the internet, good communication was difficult. He was focusing on presentations, but it applies to any kind of communication. Aristotle’s answer? He broke it into three parts:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Make sure you know what you want to say and position it so it’s important to your audience. Craft your message so they want to hear it. When you’re the manager, they must understand the importance of your message.

  • Tell them. Spell out your message very clearly … no ambiguity, no confusion. The recipient should not be confused about the intent.

  • Tell them what you told them. Repeat the key points and spell out your call-to-action.

OK. All that may seem redundant, especially in email and written communication but, believe me, it will save you a lot of hassle and misunderstanding.

Take 100% of the responsibility for your communications. Never assume someone got your message or understood it. Check it and double check it. Then check it again. If it’s to an employee, ask them to repeat it. What’s the worst that can happen?

I’m Oliver Connolly and I help owners and sales managers create a sales force that consistently makes quota. Contact me at to explore ways we can work together.

Check out my website at for a bunch of FREE STUFF on sales and sales management. 

Oliver Connolly