What Exactly Are They Saying?

by | May 15, 2015 | Communication Skills

When I was a rookie sales person many years ago, I made a big mistake. It was one of my first sales calls. I wanted so badly to let the customer know how smart I was. I was great (ha!) at what was then known as “solution selling.”

But on this call it was a disaster. As I asked the well-rehearsed questions I was trained to ask, the customer would respond exactly as I predicted. Unfortunately, I had a bad habit of finishing the customer’s sentences.

Finally after about ten minutes the customer said, “Do you want me to explain my situation or do you want to keep ending my sentences?

Guess what? That sale never happened. I wasn’t listening.

How well do you listen when your customer is talking? What’s the purpose of listening well?

In the book “Go-Givers Sell More”, Bob Burg and John David Mann do an excellent job explaining how sales professionals should truly listen to customers.

I love this idea. “How you listen depends on what questions you are asking yourself. You can listen from a context that says, what do I think about what this person is saying, and how am I going to respond. Or you can listen from a context that simply says, what exactly is this person saying?” Which do you think will prove more beneficial to building a long-term, trusting relationship?

The problem that I had with that early sales call was that I wasn’t focused on what they were saying. I was concentrating on what I was going to say back! In this case, I couldn’t really hear what the person was saying.

Burg and Mann say, “When the customer is talking just put your engine in park, shut it off and just listen.” Maybe some of the best advice out there!

Customers frequently don’t voice their true concerns. In fact, they sometimes don’t even know what their real concerns are, at least not at first.

Listening allows the conversation to unfold. When you listen closely, you naturally ask better questions which uncover the true concerns of your customer. Connected conversations build trust and help them feel OK to open up with you. Everyone wants to be heard and not just so you can make a sale! People can see right through that.

When you try to get your points across and aren’t listening thoroughly, it can become a sparring match, which is like a debate. Someone wins and someone loses. And in sales, a win-win solution is always the best approach.

When you hear or uncover a concern, you need to pause, listen and then ask them probing questions to learn more, like, where the concern is coming from. Once you both have that understanding, it’s time to brainstorm for the best solutions, which are not always your products and services.

When you approach a sale this way, you’re seen as a consultant and a problem solver, which equals true value to them.

On your next sales call, try this:

  1. Ask your question, make eye contact and listen.
  2. Don’t formulate a response while the customer is speaking.
  3. Ask a follow-up question to unveil deeper information and to begin a meaningful conversation.

Good selling!