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Is anyone out there really listening?

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Top Ten Selling

The best salespeople are great listeners. They tell us that it is important to listen in order to understand, not simply wait for their turn to talk. My daughter taught me all about the concept of listening.

Unfortunately, her mother and I were going through a divorce. My daughter was just entering her teens and was having a really tough time with the divorce. One night she had a meltdown. I was there and was “the target.”

I’m not sure if any of you have been “the target” of a teenage daughter meltdown, but you have a better chance of surviving as a guest on Dr. Phil and hearing him say, “You seem perfectly sane to me, and your kids are lucky to have you as a dad.”

She caught me in the hall while charging to her room, and I was helplessly caught in the flow. I felt like I was caught by one of those tractor beams in Star Trek.

“We just can’t do it, Captain. The engine is at full power, but their tractor beam is just too strong.”

I found myself sitting on her bed, dumbfounded, unable to get a word in edgewise, listening as she blamed me for everything that had gone wrong in her life for the last 13 years. I knew the divorce was the real problem, but I didn’t know what to say to fix it. I sat there and listened as she cried and yelled, not understanding half of what she was saying.

After spending what seemed like a week in her room, she suddenly stopped crying, sat up and said, “Thanks Dad, you really helped me.”

“I didn’t do anything but listen, princess,” I replied.

“Sometimes all you have to do to help is just listen,” she said.

So, how does this apply to sales and how is listening put into practice by the very best salespeople? Following are five easy suggestions given by the very best salespeople on becoming a better listener:

  • Listen to understand. Listen and focus on what the customer is saying, not what you want to say next.
  • Listen like you did the first time. Chances are good that this is not the first time that you have heard a customer relate this kind of a problem, need or reason for showing interest in your product. You may have heard it all before, but it may be this customer’s first time expressing it. Listen as though you are hearing everything that customer is saying for the very first time. Make sure that you don’t miss something.
  • Fill in the blanks. Next, ask questions to better understand and quantify the reason the customer is interested in your product.
  • Confirm your understanding. Share with the customer your understanding of the need, problem or reason for interest. This step is to confirm that you have it right. In addition, when the customer hears you state your understanding, it gives them assurance that you are trying to solve their problem and not just “selling” them something.
  • How can I help? Ask the customer what they expect in terms of a solution and how they think that your product might help.

Now, you should be in a great position to determine which of your company’s products or services will best satisfy the customer’s needs. Present the solution, explain how it will meet the customer’s expectations and ask if they have questions. Once again, apply your new listening skills. Answer all questions, handle any objections and then, close the sale.

As my daughter said, “Sometimes all you have to do to help is just listen!”