Are You Listening or are You Just Hearing?
When sales people think they know a lot about their customer and their circumstances they leave very little room for listening, curiosity, empathy and learning. Without these elements your customer will not experience truly being heard.
Sales people too often view listening as losing control and too risky. As Steven Covey puts it, "It takes a great deal of security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself up to being influenced. You become vulnerable. In order to have influence, you have to be wiling to be influenced. That means you really have to have deep understanding."
If sales people only understood that they create more credibility, trust, authority, expertise and rapport listing, than they do in persuading and convincing it would change the whole dynamics of their sales calls. However, most sales people take a short-term perspective on a sales call which is very tactical, instead of taking a longer-term perspective which is very strategic. A long-term perspective gives sales people the incentive to be good listeners and strategic in their aproach.
In the 1970s Neil Rackman found consistently that newly hired Xerox sales people predictably peaked and declined in performance after 18 months because they had achieved the confidence to be an expert. They no longer needed to ask questions and listen since they already knew all the answers and could save time by giving the prospect their solution.
So stop talking and there is nothing you will not know. A good listener listens without personal identification, perspective and has a clean slate because passing judgment, whether positive or negative, taints how you listen to someone. Good listening requires a posture of nobody is right and nobody is wrong, because what you are not willing to accept you ultimately oppose. Listening really becomes natural, easy and authentic when you do not have a solid point of view. When done properly listening is arriving without striving.
Too often traditional sales people are deafened by what they hear. They hear, but they do not listen. This is no different than being blinded by what we see. For listening to be the ultimate expression of trust, you need to listen without attachment. As Jean de la Fontaine said, "A hungry stomach cannot hear."
Most sales people are very good at only listening to their own internal dialogue – When are they going to buy? – When should I bring up price? – When should I close this deal? We hear to sell, but do not listen to understand. Too often we hear what we want to hear. We listen to answers that only reinforce our own preconceived ideas. Sales people fail to truly listen because quite frankly they do not care enough to really know the customer's unique perspective.
Listen intently because often what customers think they want is not what they really want, and what they think they really do not want so often is what they do want. By intently listening you can sometimes bring out these contradictions much more effectively than directly bringing them up. Listening is so critical in the selling process because decisions are made intuitively, irrationally and illogically. Deep listening, instead of information overload is the way to pick up all the nuances and subtleties of the emotions of your customer. No other skill set comes close to achieving this goal.
The goal is not to get your customer to listen, the goal is to get them to talk so you can listen. As Brian Tracy says "The sale takes place with the words, but the buying takes place in the silence." So you are handsomely paid and rewarded to listen, and poorly compensated to sell and to speak. The less you speak and sell the more you are forced to listen. "Silence of the sewn lips is no silence. One may achieve the same result by chopping off one's tongue, but that wouldn't be silence. He is truly silent who, having the capacity to speak, utters no idle words," said M. Gandhi.