A chapter from my book “The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success. You can download it here as well:
Blatant Truth #6: Learn to Listen
Think back on any successful sales experiences, either as the seller or as the buyer. In most cases –- if not all – a single theme ran through them all: you were listening, and you were listened to.
And so when your customer expressed her or his delight with the sale, or you personally felt the satisfaction of buying something you wanted, you probably didn’t experience a wave of joy or delight; rather, you felt a calm, confident satisfaction…and this makes sense. Why would you feel amazed at the success? It was quite simple, really. You understood – because you listened, or were listened to – what was needed. And then the solution fit that need. That’s not amazing at all; but it is excellence, and it does lead to brilliant sales performance, because listening is at least 50% of the sales process.
So how can you transform yourself from a mere passive hearer to an active, excellent listener? It’s easier than you might think; you don’t even have to go to school, read a book, or put an affirmation on your bathroom mirror (“today, I will listen”). Here’s what you need to do:
* Notice that what a prospect is saying can be contradicted by how she or he is saying it. The how is often a richer source of accurate insight than the what.
* When listening to a prospect, resist the urge to start focusing on what you’ll say next. If you catch yourself doing this, then just take a step back from your thought, and continue listening.
*Notice when you’re becoming defensive. When you become defensive, what you hear starts to fit into an emotionally-charged framework; and that framework can be very incorrect.
*Accept that you don’t always have to understand what your prospect is saying. Seriously. If your prospect says something that you don’t grasp, then tell them to explain it to you. You don’t look stupid when you ask questions; you look stupid when you provide solutions that don’t fitP
*Perform a self-diagnostic several times a day. Are you so distracted that you can’t focus on listening? Or worse, are you so consumed with your role in the conversation that unless it’s about you, you can’t stay interested?
*Ask yourself: are you so confident that you know what your prospect will say next, that you don’t even bother listening? Or on the other end of this, are you so intimidated by your prospect – perhaps they’re experts — that you can’t effectively listen?
*Are you applying value judgments to your prospect; perhaps things about their personality, or even the words that they use, which makes listening difficult? Applying right/wrong/good/bad verdicts on people we don’t know – including total strangers – is common and arguably unavoidable. When you catch yourself doing it, you empower yourself to stop doing it…and to really listen.