Today I want to make it clear just how important listening is when it comes to sales. We’ve all heard the cliche of the door-to-door vacuum salesman who bullies his way into your house and harasses you to buy – even when you don’t have a carpet. None of us want to be that guy. That’s where listening comes in.
Listening to understand a potential client is absolutely critical if you’re trying to make a sale. I’ve coached people who put a lot of emphasis on jumping right to the close. Not only does this create friction in the conversation, but it’s also a sign that you’re doing the exact opposite of listening. Instead of trying to understand what that person wants or needs, you get wrapped up in your own agenda, and you both walk away from the conversation frustrated.
But what happens when you make a point to really listen and understand what the other person is saying? Instead of walking into a conversation with the intent of convincing the person that they need you, make it your goal to be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Not sure where to start? Ask questions. Ask them about their business. What do they do? How is it going? What drives them? As they talk and you listen, they’ll start to let you know about problems they’re having. I like to keep a mental checklist as we talk. “Can I solve this problem? No, it looks like I can’t. But I can solve the next one.”
Great salespeople listen, and they understand the underlying motivations and objectives within the context of the person they’re listening to. The only way to do that is to have a genuine interest in what the other person is saying.
When you take the time to listen and really understand what someone is telling you, you’ll find your confidence in your own skills grows. Here’s a story to illustrate what I mean by that. I once had a client call me asking to have some video work done. After asking him a few questions and really listening to what he said, I realized that creating a video would be a complete expense for him. It just wasn’t something that made sense to do. So I turned down the job, and told him to come back to me when he wanted to talk about strategy.
By actively listening to what he had to say, I had the confidence to know that I had more to offer him than just the work product. And you have more to offer, too.
You’re not a vacuum salesperson trying to bust down someone’s door. You’re offering solutions to problems that a lot of people have. Listening is the key to finding and understanding those problems, and to providing a solution.
Is your approach to sales guided by a genuine interest in what the people you interact with need? If not, why isn’t it, and what do you need to do to get there? Prioritizing listening may seem like a departure from the way you’re used to approaching sales, but when you give it a try you’ll see that the results are absolutely worth it.