Good article on listening by my friend, Tom French.
Here is a quick summary of a critical fundamental selling skill, one we all know how to do well, but which we frequently don’t do so well. With serious consequences.
In selling, if we don’t listen well we might miss something, and it might be something important. A common reason initial sales conversations don’t go well is poor listening by the salesperson. They simply miss an opportunity to engage the customer. When the customer isn’t engaged they typically lose interest, and then the sale stalls.
Research shows that customers want to be sure the salesperson understands them before they are ready to consider buying. Of course the salesperson develops this understanding by asking good questions and listening.
Sounds easy, right? Just ask and listen, and it will go well. This is actually the heart of good selling. (Offering insights which is also advocated today can only be done well based on understanding the customer – in other words after some good listening.) However, listening well is easier said than done.
Ralph Nichols at The American Listening Institute says most people listen at 25% efficiency. With friends if we listen poorly (at 25% efficiency) they will probably forgive us. But in selling, there is a lot at stake, and if we miss 75% we miss too much.
So what gets in the way of good listening? In workshops when I ask salespeople if listening is difficult they usually say yes. The biggest obstacle typically is the tendency to think about something else while the customer is talking (usually it’s thinking about what we are going to say next).
Another obstacle to effective communication in selling, the biggest one actually, according the renowned psychologist Carl Rogers, is evaluative listening – judging the speaker. I find that experienced sales people are especially vulnerable to this pitfall – they often think they know what the customer will say next and they often think they know better than the customer.
Here is a simple yet very powerful way to test yourself on your listening efficiency.