Great Sales People Listen the Solution Out of the Customer
The act of listening will consistently outperform the act of giving good advice. Listening in itself is good advice. Great listeners listen the solution out of the customer.
The idea is to listen customers into making decisions, and let the customer do the the heavy lifting of convincing and persuading for you. To do this you listen more to care and understand, than to sell. As Henry David Thoreau said, "Could a greater miracle ever occur than seeing a person through their eyes."
It is critical that you listen and observe how customers want to be approached. Then you have to listen intently to not only what they want, but also what they do not want, and you have to satisfy their emotional need of "do you get them" and "have you figured them out."
When sales people are only looking out for agreement and confirmation from their customers they tend to listen from a fixed position, and do not listen for key differences. When you are open to listen to the full range of answers you get, you really build trust and credibility. Listening for what you do not want to know or acknowledge is the hardest part of effective listening.
"Intense active listening is difficult for so many people because you need to listen to things you would rather not hear, things that challenge your point of view, things you find irrelevant and boring, or even things that push your buttons. Active listening is one of the best communication skill sets for learning to hold differences. When you learn to listen to two conflicting views side-by-side, the differences do not seem so threatening, your view expands, and often, the contradiction vanishes," says Susan Campbell.
Sales people also struggle to listen because they have a hard time differentiating between a conversation they had with a customer and their personal reaction to it, and their own internal conversation they had with themselves about its significance. Carl Rogers, the father of client centered therapy, wrote that people fail to listen because the huge perceived risk they incur in attempting to understand other people. So effective listening is as Jerry Voss said is, "Listening with three ears; what is being said, what is not being said, and what cannot be said." Good listeners consistently know when a yes is a no, a no is a yes, or when good news is really bad news.
Great sales people listen for words, but more importantly they listen for emotional cues. They focus more on emotions then facts. "Clients do not reveal their feelings in words; they tell us with their tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. The intangibles are the key, not the intangibles," says Mitch Anthony. Collecting raw data is the least important goal of listening.
Listen to first hear someone out, then to understand and last to know. Knowledge does not come from content, information, data and personal interpretation, but from acceptance, understanding and quiet experience. It truly takes humility to perfect the art of listening and learning.
When you deeply listen, you are demonstrating to your customer that you truly value and honor them. Listening is enhanced when you are not seeking agreement or external results of any kind. When you provide a safe neutral environment for your customer they will tend to feel accepted in an unconditional manner.
The beauty of being a good listener is you let customers listen to their whole story, uninterrupted. And usually it is the best story they hear all day. It is not surprising that according to studies, the higher business people get, the more information they obtained by listening. "In tests at the boardroom level, executives retain 90% of the information delivered in a 45 minute presentation. Assembly workers retain 25%," according to Jerry Voss. Can you imagine how low it is for customers to retain information from sales people who are only interested in their own self-serving, external goals. Customers love to listen to themselves expound about their worldview and loathe to listen to sales people pitch their wares.
"Wisdom is the reward you get from a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk," says Doug Larson.