We have all ready that is sales a key skill is listening, no argument here, even if it is expressed in the silliest of ways, my favourite stupid listening expression is “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion”. Yes well, I also have two nostrils, two eyes and a bunch of other sets of two that no one ever advises I utilize to move a sales forward. But once you get past the silly clichés, listening is paramount, and few if any would argue.
Yet when it comes to execution many fall short, even the pundits. The problem is that most people tend to listen very selfishly rather than in a way that serves the conversation, what can be called restricted listening. The key issue, and challenge for some, is to listen in a way that puts the prospect at enough ease to fully open up and allow both parties to deal with the facts and move the sale forward. The opportunity to allow the prospect to be fully engaged, feel at ease enough to open up, and at same time maintain control of the flow and process. This may not be the easiest balance to achieve, but with a bit skill, practice, patience and a plan it can be done.
The fact is that no matter what, in sales you have an agenda, which is to sell the prospect on the upside of buying your product, and complete the sale. As a result, many listen for things that they feel will move the sale forward, and ignore those things that they feel are not relevant to that. They interpret things with a bias, and most common, they jump in and interrupt the prospect when they here a magic word that they feel will catapult them to a sale or can be found three or more times in their brochure.
The root cause of this is not a negative, it is just a bad combination of desire and human make up. As a tribe, sales people are a driven bunch, looking for any opportunity to achieve, and in sales achieving is getting deals. Compounding this is the fact that we think much faster than people speak or listen, and that racing mind, the pull of the finish line are a deadly combination. It causes us to mentally get ahead of the conversation, leaving the prospect behind, and in the process endangering or at least slowing down the sale.
One thing that many try is to paraphrase or repeat things back to the prospect as a way of re-synching the conversation and showing the client that you are listening. But this doesn’t always cover it, because sales people become good at picking out certain words, usually the words that serve their purpose. And because it has been tried so often, prospects have become not only used to this, but be jaded by it.
So what’s the solution?
Simple really, one that I was taught some time ago by another sales pro, a way to deal with it that allows you to maintain control of the flow but still put the prospect at the centre of the process. The advice, before you ask the prospect your next question, the one you really want to ask, ask them a specific question based on what they just said. This is not asking them something lame like “so if I understand you correctly, you just said….?” No, that is just a variation of the paraphrasing. To ask the right question you will have to listen, not let your mind race ahead, but fully focus on one the prospect is saying. You can use the resulting energy (that build up from the friction between what you want to do, and what we are telling you to do), to align the question with the prospect’s concerns with your ability to address it and deliver value to them. This may not always align with brochures or Marketing’s message, but it will always align you with the prospect, which is what you want. So just get yourself in the habit of focusing on what you can ask the prospect based on what they just said, not what you want to say. Thanks Trevor.
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