Ye Who Listen Shall Inherit The Earth

I really doubt if that was one of the Beatitudes come to think of it but it makes for a good title. It also has a lot to do with today’s post, which by the way may be similar to one I wrote several months ago but worth reading for this spin.

Sales and communication go hand in hand, are flip sides of the same coin, are like yin and yang. I think that probably covers quite a few trite cutesy adages. But in sales, as in many communications between people, the listener is poised and ready to respond without necessarily comprehending what the speaker really said. Here’s a sales dialogue between a prospect (P) and a salesperson (SP). The prospect is a plant supervisor with responsibility for keeping four manufacturing lines running; the sales rep sells self-maintaining robotics. We take the conversation up here:

P-“It’s been quite a while since we’ve had all four of our lines running at the same time. There always seems to be something going wrong with one of them. It just kills production and someone is always over me for the delays.”

SP-“Well, Bob, I can feel for you. You know that our robotic assemblies are self maintaining which means no downtime and no delays. They adapt well to different assembly line speeds and processes and the programmable feature allows you to set them up in the morning and leave them alone for the day.”

You get the idea what’s happening here. Our erstwhile sales rep is practically panting at the thought of selling one of his systems. He can’t wait for the prospect to shut up so he can shower the guy with features and benefits. It is a natural instinct for anyone to help someone in distress as this plant super seems to be in, but there is a much better way to help. Once an individual stops talking, let a few seconds pass before you start in. It may be that the speaker is not finished but only catching their breath. Wait until the silence “ends”; don’t just wait for the speaker to stop. And then, here is what to do.

Summarize what you heard the speaker say. Now, in the example above there is not much to summarize but in most sales situations the conversations between prospect and salesperson take a lot of twists and turns. Every so often a salesperson has to step back and say something like, “Bob, let’s see if I understand you you correctly….” Then summarize what you heard Bob say and then ask something like, “Does that about cover it Bob?” If you did not hear what the prospect said then he or she will set you straight; if you heard them right then the prospect is thinking that this guy really wants to understand. What a novel approach!

Why bother and do this? Because we all have word/phrase/meaning filters in our brain. A prospect’s words can go in but they may not get sorted out in our brain the way the prospect meant them. Even though many dialogues (like the one above) seem self evident they are not. There is a lot of information packed into the prospect’s three sentences that need more understanding.

The Final Thought: Listen Hard!


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