A staple of sales training is listening, active listening (I always picture a sprinter, or the kid next door with ADHD), listening from the heart, all kind of listening; even I wrote a piece on “In Listening”. But most often this advice falls on deaf ears, partly because many of the people delivering the message don’t always practice what they preach, or maybe they should move the focus to understanding rather than just the act of listening.
Understanding goes more to the point of the issue than listening. A lot of people listen “well” or “intently”, but they fail to take things in. No doubt, this is behind the expression “I hear you”. It is easy to sit on the edge of your chair and look like you are totally involved and “listening”, but the measure is in what actions are taken based on not just what you heard, but what you take in, what you understand, what is ultimately found in the results.
Results are where you demonstrate how well you disabled your filters, how well you were able to fight the limitation of selective listening, which is what a lot of sales people suffer from. No matter how good their intentions are, they are victims of what they take in when they are listening.
If you want clear example of this, see how the paradigm changes when you change the medium. “Listening” implies an auditory experience; you ask questions, buyer answers, we pretend to “take it in”. Let’s change that slightly, say to written communication, in theory more conducive to “hearing” clearly, understanding (especially if you both speak English). But what you will find is that it actually demonstrates how little people do really “listen” or “understand” beyond their selfish needs, their filters, beyond their selectivity. Don’t believe me, want to see daily example of sales professionals and gurus not listening, just check out some of the discussions in some LinkedIn Groups.
Over the last few weeks I have been part of a number of discussions, some I started while others I have joined in. I am continuously struck by how many people only read part of the question before they jump in pretending to bring value when they are just disrupting and taking away from the quality of the discussion. Do any of us believe they would conduct a sale differently?
Now I understand that some just want to promote a cause, a product or a point of view, so they jump into discussion strictly to promote (sell). But others seem to want to contribute, but they don’t because they are responding to an incomplete question. Even where they may have a point, it is lost because it is clear they did not read or take in, or more correctly chose not to take in, the entire question or premise of the discussion. So yes, they listened, selectively, and then respond with little or no value. But they tell everyone that success in sales comes down to listening, proving Gerald (Little Milton) Bostock right in the process.
In some other cases, there are clear instructions given, things to be address in a clear sequential order, yet a bunch of respondents just spew back unstructured, incomplete responses that simply yell “hey I didn’t bother reading the instructions, I didn’t listen, I didn’t hear what you said, but I’m gonna talk any ways, cause that’s how I sell.”
What’s in Your Pipeline?