Death by Talking

by | Jun 7, 2014 | Communication Skills

Our company invited a group of customers to a software demonstration.

The software would increase productivity with their customer base.

We invited one of our most knowledgeable presenters and told him he would have 30 minutes to present plus 15 minutes for Q&A. At the 25 minute mark we gave him a 5 minute warning.

He ignored it.  The first time, and the next 4 times!

Finally at the 55 minute mark, our sales manager got up to thank the speaker, informing our customer that we would answer questions off line.

What was the speaker thinking?

He was thinking of himself and what he wanted to say and what HE thought the customer wanted to hear.  He probably knew better, but we don’t always do what we know is right.

In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell Is Human, he writes that the opposite of talking is not listening, but waiting! What does he mean?  That our natural tendency while someone is talking is to formulate our response, instead of listening attentively.  If responding is our main priority we will probably not get to the most important issues the customer wants to explore.

Because our speaker was more interested in talking he failed to make time for the customers to respond with questions and feedback on the new software.

All communications must be balanced, and especially with customers. The old saying, “he or she that talks the most has the least control”, is so true. When you are presenting, what are you finding out about your customer? A rule of thumb is that the customer should be doing at least 60% of the talking. You want to guide your customers to talk by asking them thoughtful questions. When you listen intently, you can then further the conversation with more insightful, pertinent questions.

If you want better answers from your customers, ask better questions! To truly understand what the customer is saying we need to listen – actively!  Lean in.  Make eye contact.  Nod.  Acknowledge their comments. Stop thinking about what to say next. Just, wait.

You may be surprised to learn that there’s actually a scientific reason why we mistakenly formulate our responses while the customer is talking.

There is a difference in the rate of speed when talking as compared to the rate of speed at which you can listen. The average person speaks at an average of 150 words per minute. Since I’m from New York – I might be around 200. Yet, the average person’s listening rate is about 450 words per minute, leaving a gap of about 300 words.

Your mind wants to fill that time, so off you go making up your response!

To be a great listener, give others your full attention.

Think about small children.   They are often the best listeners, hanging on your every word, then asking endless questions.  Why?  Why?  Why?  They are curious.  They want to learn.  How can you bring that same desire to learn into your sales calls?

To avoid talking yourself into a corner:

  • Balance the conversation let your customers do most of the talking.
  • Listen, ask thoughtful follow-up questions, then listen more.

On your next sales call see if you can really hear what your customer is saying.  I think you’ll be surprised with the powerful results.

Good selling!