Blogger’s Note: This is a BONUS Posting, excerpted from my first book: Precision Selling: 21 Winning Strategies to Achieve Peak Performance, Chapter Nine.
This is also the first article in my new Series entitled: Peak Performance Listening
Shut Up and Listen
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
Peter Drucker (1907 – 2005) Economist and author
You are all working way too hard at selling. If you’d stop flapping your mouth for a while and shut up and listen, you would be amazed.
If you’re on this planet and you’re alive, your absolute priority at all times is to LISTEN. It’s hard for me to emphasize this point too much, but I will try.
When a person is speaking to you, what are you thinking about? Are you hearing and thinking about what they just said or is your attention elsewhere? If you’re like most people, only part of you is listening. Part of you is not present. Here are the most popular OTHER activities you might engage in while appearing to listen politely to the other person:
- Thinking about what you’re going to say when they decide to shut up
- Thinking “get to the point”
- Thinking about why in the world you’re stuck listening to this person when there are other much more interesting people in the room.
- Thinking about how you can escape being trapped in the conversation
- Thinking about what you should really be doing with your time
- Thinking about past events
- Planning future events and activities
- Wondering WHY they are talking about this subject to you
- Wondering what their real motivation is
- Fantasizing…in general
You probably saw yourself on that list. I can assure you that NOT listening to your customer is costing you business. Any classes you may have taken in high school or college on communication dealt with the written word, not the spoken word. Until now, it hasn’t been considered too important to actively learn how to listen.
This is one of the most important lessons in Precision Selling: Learn to Listen.
There are several levels to effective listening. To become proficient you need to function at all of these levels. Let’s call this “active listening” or effective listening. Here are the basic rules of effective listening:
- Be there, in that time and in that space, with that person.
- Convey your interest and support. Make it “safe” for them to communicate with you.
- Listen and analyze the exact words and nothing more.
- Don’t judge the person.
- Listen to the other person, not your own thoughts.
- Don’t interrupt. Wait for your turn.
- Don’t get “dumped on.” Politely interject an acknowledgment and move on.
- Listen with empathy. You should be aware of the emotional level of the person you are interacting with.
- Listen beyond the sounds and the emotion. What else is being communicated? This includes non-verbal signals and body language.
- 10. What is the person thinking? Can you sense their attitude or decisions? How perceptive can you become?
Do you see what I mean by active listening?
Now, as professional salespeople, you know the importance of connecting with your prospects. What does this mean? It means Active Listening. You observe, you watch, you perceive their reactions and you listen in on their thoughts. Even though you are speaking, you are also listening to your customer and receiving his/her feedback.
I once mentored a rookie salesperson (an intern) who called on a major petrochemical company. This rookie had been trained in all the technical details of his product (a disk drive), and brought along an 84-slide presentation and two very thick books of technical specifications. He was ready to brief the customer on the minutest of details of the product.
During the first 15 minutes of the presentation, a senior manager stood up and asked for the price. The rookie didn’t listen to the question and proceeded with his presentation with the caveat that pricing would be covered at the end of the meeting. In another 10 minutes, another manager stood and said: “Son, these look good. I think we’d like to get delivery of 20. When can you have them here?”
The rookie froze, and once again did not listen. With a cross voice, he told the manager he’d cover delivery after he’d finished his entire presentation!!
Fortunately, I pulled him aside, got him to shut up and listen to the customer. We ended up taking orders for over 100 of the new disk drives……because we listened to the customer! He told us we were done with our meeting and they were ready to proceed with purchasing, and that’s what we did.
In my sales experience, I have seen countless sales LOST because the salesperson fell in love with the sound of his own voice and failed to listen to the customer. Don’t let that happen to you!
By now I hope I’ve convinced you of the power of listening and why this amazing ability can change your sales efficiency. What, you may ask, does one listen for? You can’t simply listen to every word with the same intensity. What are the most important items to focus on in a selling situation?
Here’s a short list of hot topics to be on the alert for:
- What are the key issues the client has on her mind?
- What problems are killing productivity in the company?
- What changes have recently occurred?
- What is their buying cycle?
- Who makes decisions and why?
- How does work get done at “Company X”?
- If problems aren’t fixed, what will happen?
Of course, your questions will be directed to these topics. But if you master the art of listening, you will find that most prospective customers will be more than happy to tell you far more than you will ever need to know about their company. A sympathetic, active, and engaged listener is a prized commodity! People love to talk and for that they need a good listener. Be that listener, and you will see a huge positive impact in your life and in your sales ability.
By now, I hope we’ve convinced you that everyone is a salesperson and that these rules apply across the board. Your listening skills need to be finely tuned and utilized well to accomplish whatever you set out to achieve. To be successful, you must absolutely master the Art and Science of Listening.