At ASHER we teach the Top 10 Selling Skills possessed by Elite salespeople. These include things such as focusing on a few top prospects, using powerful marketing messages, and building long-term relationships.
There is one sales skill which stands above all others. It also has a lot to do with leading people successfully. It is so important that we recommend salesperson aptitude assessments be used to identify those who naturally possess this skill.
In a recent Asher Sales Sense Podcast we featured performance coach Alan Stein Jr. who has worked with some of the highest performing basketball players on the planet, the late Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers, Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors and Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers.
The key pillar of sales and leadership success which Alan discusses in the podcast, and which we wholeheartedly agree with and emphasize as the single most important selling skill is LISTENING.
Alan says, “Sales and leadership is all about creating connections. Listening is arguably the most effective way to create a connection with a fellow human being … when you actively listen to someone you send them an unconscious message that you care about them …. that’s what creates trust.”
Elite salespeople know effective listening is far more important than having fancy pitch decks or the ability to rattle off all the features of a product or service from memory.
So, how do we improve this skill?
Practical ways to improve listening
First, let’s define listening, or more precisely ACTIVE listening. In the podcast, Alan shares a great definition which I will paraphrase here: it’s when you listen with the active intent to learn something from the person who is speaking, rather than simply wait your turn to talk back at them.
Simply standing there nodding and smiling while your mind drifts is not what is meant by good listening skills. Instead, try the following, which are a combination of things Alan talks about and our own tips:
1. Constantly remind yourself of this mantra: “It’s not about me, it’s about the other person.”
2. Ask yourself, “What can I do to ensure I am fully present?” Things which help keep your attention on the other person include making solid eye contact or finding something to admire about him or her.
3. List-back: in an appropriate break in the conversation, list back a few things the speaker has said to reinforce you have really grasped what they said and that you actually care.
4. When you find yourself talking too much, ask the buyer an open-ended question to switch the focus back to them.
Many people struggle with active listening; with practice anyone can do better. One last tip: make sure you thoroughly acknowledge what your buyers have said once they are finished speaking. Rapport can be destroyed in an instant if they feel you are merely brushing them off with a brusque “uh-huh” instead of “I can see how late deliveries in the past have affected you,” for example.
Hire good listeners for better performance.
Salesperson aptitude assessments are essential to identify prospective hires with strong listening skills. With further training, these can become exceptional salespeople.
The question might arise: Is there an ideal “listen vs. talk” ratio? In fact, there is! Take a look at the following chart:
As shown by Sales Hacker, top performing sales professionals employ a 43:57 talk-to-listen ratio, whereas the lowest performers talk between 65% to 75% of the time per sales call. Clearly, long-winded pitches ruin the chances for sales success.
Apart from a salesperson aptitude assessment, executives and hiring managers can hire potential winners by paying attention to this ratio during face-to-face and phone conversations.
Since both the prospective hire and the interviewer are “selling” each other (one on why they should be hired, and the other on why they make an ideal employer), it is reasonable to assume about a 50/50 ratio in this situation.
If the salesperson drones on endlessly about themselves and isn’t asking any questions, they likely need some work on their listening skills. Consult the salesperson aptitude assessment to determine whether their other traits show promise, otherwise search for a better candidate.
The moral of this story is while many elite salespeople have strong personalities and egos to match, they are skilled enough to place these aside when interacting with buyers in order to practice effective, active listening. They use guiding questions to encourage the buyer to speak about their needs, and they build trust. They understand by doing so, buyers practically close themselves, and they enjoy much higher closing ratios.
The first step to finding these professionals is a salesperson aptitude assessment.
Listen to the Asher Sales Sense Podcast referenced in this blog post here: https://asherstrategiesradio.com/e/why-listening-is-the-most-valuable-sales-skill-podcast-from-alan-stein-jr/