Are you a good listener?
When Mike (Bosworth, Creator and Author of Solution Selling® Customer Centric Selling® and What Great (Sales)people do) told me about his observation that salespeople are the worst listeners my brain shut off in the middle of his sentence.
I was just waiting for him to finish and had already planned what I am going to say: “Oh, Mike, that´s interesting. I think you´re right. So glad that this does not apply to me”.
Luckily I noticed it myself. Ashamed and humbled I remained silent.
Salespeople ARE the worst listeners
Empathic listening is difficult for all people. But sellers face an additional hurdle: Their expertise. Meanwhile, it´s common sales knowledge that you cannot sell via features but should think “solution” and customer benefit.
That you first need to understand if the buyer has a problem and earn the right to propose anything has sadly not spread.
Nobody wants to be told what to do. If it´s good advice or not does not even matter. Imagine a parent telling their kid with raised finger: I forbid you to play with the boy from next door. Does that work fine?
And now imagine you´re a board member or CEO … and a salesy sales guy enters your office and tells you how to do your job.
The problem with expertise
Back to the problem with expertise. After eight months at the latest, the new salesperson has a good overview of the features and products his company offers. He has seen it all. He knows all possible combinations and problems his products can solve.
After the first four words of the buyer his brain disconnects. He will calculate how much commission he could make, or think about having Pizza or Sushi for dinner. But most likely he plans how he will – as soon as the buyer needs a breath of air – phrase his proposal.
He knows the problem of the buyer. And he knows that his products can solve it. Guess what; he´s probably right.
Sadly, he misses the single most important step: Forming an emotional connection with the buyer and earning his trust.
Also, it´s possible (it was the case in basically all of my deals) that the real problem of the buyer is not of technical nature. His problem might be on the emotional level, that he will not share with the typical salesperson.
He will when he feels he is listened to, feels a connection – and trust. People with a high EQ, great salespeople, know that intuitively.
Active empathic listening
We need to focus on understanding our buyer and most importantly his emotions.
You can always ask a buyer who likes you for clarification on technical details later – you cannot ask a buyer that thinks you´re just another pushy obnoxious salesperson for his emotions.
Empathic listening is
- without prejudice and assumptions
- until the end
- focused solely on the buyer
- with the honest wish to understand
- until you have the full picture: Facts and emotions
Like Mike Bosworth says:
“People make rational decisions for emotional reasons.”
Unless you understand how your buyer feels – you did not understand him at all. You might have learned about some technical requirements and his budget – but you will likely end up being list fodder and a salesperson with a high emotional quotient, and connective listening skills will steal the deal.
The good news is: You can learn empathic listening. And you can raise your EQ.
We use storytelling as a vehicle to influence the buyer to share his story.
But in a sales situation, the second step is as important: Story tending. At this point, we are still far away from features and solutions.
When we are tending the buyers story back to him we reflect our understanding of his situation. While he is still talking, we can signal with questions or emotional reactions that we are listening.
As long as it serves the purpose of understanding our buyer better.
So you not only have to make sure you hear the facts, but you also need to know how the buyer feels about every aspect of his “story.”
Only when the buyer confirms that you thoroughly understood his situation can you start to create visions.
We all know that many deals get lost because the salesperson never asks for the deal. As many deals are lost for salespeople asking to early – but that´s another situation where emotional intelligence comes to play and a topic for the next article.
I hope you enjoyed this article. I would be thrilled if you allowed me to serve you with many more articles.
Please do not hesitate for as long as the blink of an eye to contact me with feedback, questions and anything else.