By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
In Part I of this series, I looked at the importance of asking powerful impactful questions if you are looking to have something powerful to listen to, and impactful engagements. The other attribute of good listening mentioned in the piece was patience. Seems straight forward, but we have all jumped in to soon, unintentionally interrupting the buyer in mid-sentence or mid-thought. By developing the discipline of patience, we can enhance the buy/sell experience for both parties.
In a world where most leading products/solutions look very much the same, how you sell, or more specifically, the buyer’s experience during your sale, could be the best way to differentiate yourself and product from the pack. Sellers have been pitched to death, they unfortunately expect Muzak like questions, and have fallen in to the habit of giving Muzak like answers; in effect they have become conditioned by previous sellers, who have trained buyers to give shallow and brief answers. Every time they start answering a question in meaningful and detailed way, and they are cut off by a seller, they are conditioned to answer with shorter and less detailed and useful answers. The interruption may be rooted in excitement about the fit, unfortunately the message the buyer gets, is “this guy is not interested in the full answer, just what serves his needs”. Each time they are unable to fully express themselves, they “learn” that the seller may not be really interested in the answer, so they provide the bare minimum.
If you decide to take on the suggestions in Part I, and move towards asking very direct and provocative questions, you need to prepare, and more importantly allow for longer and more detailed answers, which requires a patient listening style that encourages the buyer to speak in detail, and create a meaningful dialogue. It is up to you to recondition and reshape the buyer’s expectations and experience.
The reality is that there are a lot of things going on in a sales meeting, sellers have to keep track of and balance various inputs and cues, at the same time analysing and formulating how to piece the information together in a usable way, while at the same time finding ways to move the sale forward. It takes effort and practice not to jump in when presented with an opening. But with a little practice and effort, you can change the experience and the outcome.
In light of the fact that we think and speak faster than people talk or we listen, we need to work hard at slowing down, and being patient enough to succeed, it does take effort not to add to the buyer’s negative conditioning. As a young seller I was taught a simple two step technique that encourages the buyer to speak more and in greater detail, while allowing me to differentiate from other sellers. As you ask provocative and open ended questions, divide your note page in half, on the left side take notes as you normally would. On the left side write down two things, first, all the things the buyer says that you want to jump in and comment on, and save them for later. The other are questions you can ask based on what the buyer is saying. This forces you to listen more intently, not race ahead or make assumptions, but patiently and tactically listening with purpose. Once the buyer has finished (on their) own, you can ask the questions you wrote down, demonstrating that you did indeed listen. You can also go back and review and build on the points you wrote down rather than interrupting, again encouraging the buyer to expand and elaborate further, and see you as a listener, and someone worth talking to.
What’s in Your Pipeline?