Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Learning to Listen

If I were to ask you about the basic personality type that makes a good sales person, what would you say? How well does that reflect the type of person you are?

It might be that you thought of a good personality match for sales as being someone who is outgoing, well-spoken and who loves interacting with others.

Think of the most outgoing, well-spoken, people-person you know. Is he in sales? Do you like him or not? Why?

It is important to make a distinction here. There is a difference between being a people-person and a me-person. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But sometimes people get confused between liking to be around people and liking people. The best “good-with-people” people have very little to say about themselves and often don’t want to be the center of attention. They’d much rather hear about you and support your good efforts than promote their own agendas. Interesting isn’t it?

What does that have to do with prospecting and sales? Well, Hal Becker puts it this way:

Selling is asking, NOT telling.

Selling is listening, NOT talking.

(Hal Becker, Can I Have 5 Minutes of Your Time, Morgan and James Publishing, 2008, pg. 7)

Let’s make that more specific.

Prospecting is asking, NOT telling.

Prospecting is listening, NOT talking.

The same social skills that apply to developing any relationship definitely apply to prospecting and sales. The people you most want to know may not be the most prominent. They’re the people who make you feel like you matter most and they truly care about your happiness and success.

Prospecting is the same thing. You are looking for relationships, problems you can help the prospect with and expressing genuine concern for their needs and interests. Not trying to get them to care about your need to sell a certain quota or how great you think your product is.

When you’re prospecting call is over your goal is to have a new Highly Qualified Prospect. What makes them highly qualified? They are ready to buy and you can help them solve their problems with your product. You are looking for synergistic relationships and good matches not another sales number.

Before you can get them to listen to you, you’d better have done a significant amount of listening to them.

So, let’s go back to communication 101 and learn about listening.

Shut out distractions and give the prospect your full attention. Do your best to keep things quiet on your end of the line so that both of you can focus better.

If a customer is talking, it’s a time to listen, not plan what you will say next. You already have a planned script to help you with your end of the conversation, concentrate on understanding their side. When we talked about scripting, we talked about planning ahead to direct the conversation. Remember that’s not planning ahead to turn the conversation back to you, but to anticipate what you can ask the prospect that will help you both.

Listen, try to anticipate the direction the speaker is going and use your script to help you quietly direct the conversation.

Don’t interrupt. Don’t finish thoughts or ideas for them. You aren’t a mind reader and you’ll annoy them if you try to act that way.

Ask questions that go beyond “yes” or “no” answers. You may not get the full picture that way. But remember to stay focused on information you need to understand and help them.

Encourage the prospect to talk by using verbal interjections that show you are listening “Yes, I see,” and “Please, go on.”

Don’t act like you understand when you don’t. Verify information or points you may have missed.

Remember, an individual fact may not be as important as the overall message. Do you understand why the prospect is saying something, not just what they may be saying?

Validate what the prospect is saying as important.

Sum things up-- for you, and the prospect. Restate what you have concluded are the most valid points, it sticks in your brain better and gives the prospect a chance to confirm you are understanding their needs.

Remember to record pertinent information in your Marketing and Sales Database while you are talking or very soon after. Don’t let the information get jumbled or forgotten.

The next time you think about the personality and character traits it takes to be a good sales person, remember your goal is to be a people-person, not a me-person and listening to others more than you talk is a great way to show that. Besides, good listening is always a good idea. Thankfully, practice makes perfect. Practice listening more and talking less in every encounter: prospects, coworkers, friends and family. Soon it will become second nature and you’ll become one popular guy. Not because you’ve told people how wonderful you and your product are, but because you’ve made people feel wonderful about themselves.

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