Hint: It's not the "gift of gab"
One of the skills most overlooked by sales professionals is listening. We’re all good about speaking. We can speak about features and benefits and advantages of our products. Business owners fall into the same category. I’ve yet to meet a business owner that isn’t good at talking about their product or service. But there aren’t enough sales professionals and entrepreneurs who actively listen to their prospects. Too often we assume our prospects are following along and understanding what we’re telling them. But if you take time to listen to your prospects and have a real conversation rather than just push the product down their throat, you’ll learn a lot more.
The “gift of gab” is BS
The “gift of gab” is BS. The best sales professionals are 100% the best listeners. The ability to listen to somebody with intent will give you the opportunity to leverage what you’ve learned later on in the conversation. The best sales professionals are able to do that. They have the gift of listening, not the gift of speaking. The good news is— like much of what we do in sales— listening is a skill that can be learned. Here is the strategy I use for listening. Be an OCD listener: Observant. Compassionate. Dynamic
Be an OBSERVANT listener.
Observant listening is focusing on the person you’re speaking to and working incredibly hard to eliminate any distractions around you. Maybe the speaker listening to has poor delivery skills, or maybe you’re speaking to a prospect who first language isn’t English. The observant listener is going to eliminate all potential distractions so their sole focus can be on the prospect. The observant listener is also patient. They let the speaker finish speaking their thoughts without interruptions. If you allow your prospect to just finish what they’re saying, you’ll hear way more and you’ll gain more information than when you cut them off. For some of us this might be a real challenge, but being an observant listener is essential for the growth of your sales career.
Be a COMPASSIONATE listener
To do this, you have to demonstrate back to your prospect that you’re listening and comprehending what they’re saying. You’re going to encourage them to continue the dialogue and give you more information. To do this, you have to give verbal and nonverbal cues that you want to hear more. Nonverbal cues are as simple as smiling, making warm facial expressions. You can nod, maintain eye contact and actively take notes. For verbal cues, you can say something simple like “I see…” “I understand…” and “That makes sense…” These short affirmations will encourage the prospect to keep speaking.
Be a DYNAMIC listener
Being a dynamic listener is arguably one of the most important parts of this formula. Being dynamic means being truly active and engaged because it combines the skill of listening and responding. And in doing so, you’re not allowed to invalidate the speaker’s comments under any circumstances. You’re not allowed to take what they’ve said to you and say you’re wrong. You’re not going to give your personal opinion. This isn’t the time to give advice, isn’t the time to be the know-it-all. This is the time to draw more information and have a dynamic conversation. Dynamic listeners will typically pay attention to the flow of the conversation. They will understand what is being said. They will understand how it’s being said. Most importantly, a dynamic listener will hear what hasn’t been said yet. If you know what you’re looking for, and if you haven’t heard the information you wanted to hear, that means they haven’t said it yet or you missed it. If they haven’t said it yet, a dynamic listener will know how to draw that information out of the prospect. If you missed it, well, go back to step 1. Lastly, when you are a dynamic listener, you paraphrase and repeat back what the prospect said to you. ‘So just to be clear, you’re telling me XY and Z…”
Every sales coach will tell you to be a better listener, and the OCD strategy is how you do it. Be an observant listener, a compassionate listener, and a dynamic listener. And if you can do that, you will watch your sales grow to that next level.