When You are Talking You are the Only Person Listening
Conventional sales people do not love to talk as much as they love to listen to themselves talk. The fact that they love to talk so much should clue them into the idea that customers probably have the same exact narcissistic tendency. But alas, their ego does not permit that, the customer's ego gets upstaged and in many cases goes unsatisfied.
Sales people who struggle being good listeners generally are spending too much time listening to their own internal dialogue. Their focus is too much about their own needs. Sales people also have difficulty listening because they are contending with the internal chatter of the past; do not forget when... remember when this happens again not not...
They also get bogged down with chatter of the future; this is taking too long, I wonder if they will bring up any objections, when should I go for the close? Sales people find too often that they get distracted because their past is trying to slow them down, and their future is trying to speed everything up. This all results in poor listening.
One reason listening is not universally embraced by all sales people is because it is a passive activity and sales people do not like to think of themselves as passive. Most conventional sales people are perpetually in motion and they fancy themselves as, "men of action." Since there is no act of controlling or manipulation in listening, conventional sales people feel they are not leveraging their strengths.
Listening is also a very subtle form of influencing. Yet many sales people like to make grand entrances and gestures. More often than not, a good listener is a traditional sales person with a sore throat, or just patiently waiting their turn to talk.
An effective listener comes to the sales event with a posture of nothing to sell, nothing to prove and nothing to disprove. They also are not emotionally attached to the sale, because a hungry sales person does not always listen. They know that the more invested they are in the outcome, the less they will listen, the less likely they will hear the truth. Having goals and expectations in the sales call is the ego's mechanism to postpone being in the moment and intently listening. The ego like nature abhors a vacuum.
A major hurdle to thoughtful listening is your personal history, biases, beliefs and opinions, which all act as filters to distort and confuse. The more you believe in your own position and your product, the harder your stance can be, the more convinced you are right, and in many cases the harder it will be to listen. Projection makes perception, which turns into reality. We decide what we want to hear before we hear it. Traditional sales people too often only will hear what they are looking for, or are prepared to hear.
When sales people have a need to be right, they erect a huge wall that prevents effective listening. Once you start believing you are always right you fail to realize how much there is you do not know. And once that happens, the need to ask questions and the desire to listen to learn more about your customer diminishes exponentially. "Only when you have really listened do you begin to earn the right to be right," says Charles Green.
Listening is truly a selfless act that inspires and uplifts when we do not listen to sell. Rarely do sales people take a non-selling posture and truly listen just for the sake of listening. "If you know what you are listening for then you are not listening," says Paul Ferrini. Listening, if done sincerely, deeply and with full attention, would dramatically transform sales people's relationships. The need to compete for airtime is a major dysfunction in sales calls. Instead of competing for airtime, sales people should be competing for dead space (listening).
Listening is the natural ease of paying attention and noticing what is really going on. "Rather than getting smarter, this process involves getting simpler, even dumber. We have to always remember how smartness blocks wisdom," says Dr. Brad Blanton.