Selling Skills: How Much Time Do You Spend Actually Listening?

In the quest to better their selling skills, some sales professionals might resort to all sorts of gadgetry; from smart phones and tablets, to special apps supposedly designed to help them close more sales. Too many of them seek out the latest “surefire” gizmo while neglecting to use one of the most powerful pieces of equipment in any salesperson’s arsenal: his own set of ears.

Years of selling skills training experience has proven that too many relentlessly try to coerce or persuade their way to a close, wasting a lot of time and energy. They are also leaving a lot of money on the table. All of this is because salespeople are not hearing their prospects out.

The Benefits of Listening

As sales trainer Barry Farber puts it in an article for Inc., every encounter with a prospect “should be centered on their needs, what they do, whom they sell to, and any personal or business goals they are currently focused on.” This is great advice.

Benefits of this approach include:

  • Need discovery: Did you realize that, in many cases, buyers have no clue that they need a change? By asking the prospect to explain his business and listening, you can put clues together and deliver an “Aha!” moment. This occurs when a business pain/opportunity is finally pinpointed and clearly enunciated, preferably by the prospect himself. Happily, the person who helped him discover it (you) is sitting in front of him, ready to present the solution.
  • Buyers “Sell Themselves”: After all, they did all the talking, didn’t they?
  • Cross/Up Selling: Your prospect is the best source of information on what else he might need to buy from you. You might be amazed as your order grows from one unit in a single office to a dozen or more around the city simply because you patiently let the prospect explain how his company works.

Farber provides some additional useful selling skills and tips in the article related to listening, which I paraphrase here:

  • Turn the conversation back to the prospect when they try to turn it towards you. In this way, you maintain control.
  • Talk and listen to many different people at a prospect’s company. Especially valuable are long-term veterans, even if they are not executives. These employees might also provide a more candid picture of what is really going on, compared with a buyer whose defenses are up.
  • Connect buyers with other professionals in your network who can also solve their problems. Listening will surely alert you to areas where your attorney friend or accountant might provide some assistance. This will likely lead to future referrals from that professional, as well as a “trusted advisor” status in the eyes of your buyer.

Listening is the most basic of selling skills to engage customers. Sales managers would be wise to drill this into their sales forces in order to get more deals in the pipeline — and more closes.


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