By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask a group of sales people what are the most important attribute or abilities a good sales person needs to master, and “Listening Skills” will usually be near the top of the list. No argument here, the ability and as importantly the patience to listen are crucial. Beyond the common aspects of listening, there is the issue of what you are listening to. Based on the question, you could find yourself doing a lot of great listening, with little progress, or return for the effort.
So while listening is a good discipline, the skill still comes down to the quality of the question. Great questions make for worthwhile listening; crappy questions lead to… well you know.
Buyers have become immune to the most often asked common questions, some may have been fresh the first time they were asked, but by the third time they were asked “if you could change one thing….?” Or any other question of this sort, they develop a standard canned answer, which if not deflected by the seller, will lead to the same predictable outcome, no sale or discounted sale, I guess that’s the penalty for bad questions.
If you want something good to listen to, you need to ask good questions, the better the question, the better listening, the better the engagement. Where there is a range of opinions is around what is a good question. From where I sit, you need ask questions that penetrate the protective shield buyers have developed to protect themselves from the usual lot of overtly self-serving questions sellers ask, of course delivered in a consultative mode.
The questions need to be provocative, spark the buyer to think, at times shock them into thinking. Think of even though a buyer has granted you an hour, they still have a 16 hour work day they are trying get in to a ten hour day, with all the challenges that go along with that. Just like we as sellers are thinking (and listening) ahead of where we are, so are they. Your question need to stop them in their track, get off the tread mill, and actually think about their answers, not just illicit a response, responses don’t make for good listening.
Unfortunately, people don’t like to provoke, they fear making client uncomfortable, so instead they ask Namby-pamby questions, soft and cuddly, almost asking the buyer to be their friend rather than an agent of change, or a person of value. These kind of soft light questions ultimately lead to light listening, like Muzak at the supermarket.
You can build more provocative questions that help you get below the surface of the issues, getting to the root of what the buyer’s objective are and how you can help eliminate hurdle, identify gaps, and mine those gaps to close them in helping the achieve those objective. The goal is to get past the here and now, to where they need/want to be, where you can add value. To do that you need something good to listen to.
What’s in Your Pipeline?