Megaphone Saying "Listen Up!"

In most organizations, sales people talk.  (For those reading this who are in sales, I am one of you.  And guilty as charged!) And not just a little bit, but most of the time.  And, in some respects, this is not surprising.  From a temperament stand point, most sales people are extroverts.  Since childhood, many of them have been sharing their thoughts and ideas with anyone who might want to listen.  As such, it is perfectly natural for them to spend most of their time talking.

Then we take this extrovert and we train them.  To talk more.  About our company.  About its history.  About why it’s better than the others.  About our products.  About their features….and about their benefits!  They also learn to talk to the customers, to bond with them and to build report.

But, do we teach them to listen?  Not just for a few key facts or data points, but to really listen? It has been said that conversation in this country is typically “two people waiting for the other one to finish so they can get on to their next point.”  In sales, this may even become one person trying to “push” their product or service on their potential customer.

To be clear, I am not talking about getting them to become best friends or some sort of counselor to the client.  There is, however, a point between where most sales people typically live and where those who are truly exceptional go.  And sometimes, it isn’t just their temperament or our training, but human nature.  Most people want to feel secure and to do that, many “sales types” need to feel like they are in control of the situation.  When you aren’t talking, you may not feel like you are “in control” of the conversation. And, in some respects, that is true.  And so there is a risk with an approach that focuses more on listening.

So if you want to sell more, learn to be a better listener.  Don’t start off everything about you, your products or your services.  Make sure you do everything you can to better understand your customer and their needs before you even start down that path.  If you make it clear that it’s not “all about you,” you will make strides towards building trust and understanding.  It should almost go without saying, but these two elements are key to lasting and profitable business relationship.

And keep in mind that this is not completely an altruistic endeavor–as you will quickly learn whether the person you are communicating with is a likely or even ideal customer.  If you don’t wait until you understand their needs, how can you effectively assess whether it even makes sense to move forward?  Does it really make sense any more time that you have to with a client that isn’t a good fit for you or your organization?  If you take shortcuts in this area, you may not see the impact immediately, but it will show up at some point.

Think about those clients with whom things seemed to be off to a good start, but as you learned more about them, issues seemed to surface and eventually you lost them as a client.  How did things go awry?  In many cases, you may see looking back that challenges could have been identified early in the process, but perhaps they were ignored.  While you probably made money in the process, it’s likely that it might not have been the best use of your time.  In economic terms, the “opportunity cost”of engaging with them versus another client might have been high.  What would have happened if you had that time to engage elsewhere?

Unfortunately, you can’t go back and regain that investment of time and effort, but you can be more intentional in your actions going forward.  You can focus on not just hearing your clients words, but really getting at the crux of what drives and motivates them.  And sense even the most basic sales training drives home the truth that people by on feeling and justify with logic, it is readily apparent how important that is to your success.

In closing, make a concerted effort to sell by NOT talking more, but listening.  Despite your fears, your silence will be rewarded.