No one argues the need to listen in sales, as I have written about here before what you listen for is key. Sometimes it comes down to the question you ask; other time to how well you listen, eliminating distractions and not just listening to the client, but hearing what they are saying.
And while many talk about Active listening, they practice Selective listening; looking for cues to pitch and push their agenda over the buyer’s. Don’t get me wrong, the seller’s primary function is to sell, drive revenue for their company, while delivering value for both the buyer and their company. Key here being mutual value, not ours over the buyer’s, but that’s exactly where many sellers seem to end up.
There is just bad skills and manners, which can be corrected. Where it is really fatal is when the problem is rooted in the intent.
I have been working with a rep who needs help in being a better listener, I have been on a few meetings with the rep over the last couple of weeks, and I swear the rep would make more money if they got $10 for every time they didn’t let the buyer finish a sentence, then the actual commission that may result from the sale (which may not happen because they didn’t shut up long enough to let it happen).
The funny thing is that if you ask the right question, which this rep often did, a lot of truth and selling opportunities will present themselves, but you have to let. Back to intent, if you want to hear how you may maximize your opportunity with buyers, you have to let them tell you, and they will. But if your intent is to sell them something, a very specific something, there is no room for the truth or the buyer’s reality, it may interfere with what you want to sell. So many reps, like the one in question prevent thing from flowing.
The other way this rep and others prevent the truth from flooding, and creating sales, is by failing to get to the root of issues buyers put on the table. Many are good at asking initial questions, but then take the buyer’s initial response at face value and move on. The reality is that people, all of us, “say things”, especially if we have been asked similar questions by a number of sellers in a short span of time. Many responses are a lot like sound bites, and reps settle for that, others take the time to examine the issue from different angles, looking for ways to a) understand what the buyer is really saying; b) to see how they may educate the buyer to better address the buyer’s objectives. Of course the risk is that they may not have the depth for that discussion; their intent is to sell product, not to help clients achieve objectives. And it takes a bit more work than they are willing to do, again, intent; it is easier to cut the prospect off and limit the discussion to those selective facts that you feel you need to make the sale.
Asking the type of questions that get the facts to come flooding, and using that to create clients not only differentiates us from other sellers, but leads to more sales and longer client life cycles than any form of selective listening.