Listen to Understand

The best sales professionals are effective communicators because they listen to understand and command the message of how their solution can positively enact change.

We will be diving into the concept of active listening routinely on this blog because it is so crucial in our business and personal conversations.

How often have to told a friend about something important – perhaps your AC broke and you are worried about getting it fixed. The friend seems empathetic at first, but you quickly realize that didn’t listen to what you were saying. Sure they HEARD you, but they didn’t really understand what you were saying. These sort of miscommunications lead to arguments, frustrations, lost deals and even lost relationships.

We as humans struggle to truly listen to understand. Some are better at it, but we all have been guilty of being that friend or sales person who made assumptions without fully trying to understand the greater situation.

In sales this happens a lot and unfortunately is why we get such a bad rap.

Ex: Client is looking for a used car that also has access for a wheelchair. The client explains that she is a nurse and often takes her home care patients to their doctor’s appointments.

The salesperson only hears van – but realizes he could make more money selling a new sports car- so instead of helping the client get what they need – they show her cars that won’t work for her job. The client is frustrated and car salesman lost a valued potential customer.

The less egregious example is when you listen for a few trigger words the client says as they are speaking – email is not secure, faxing…you automatically pair a solution with the client’s need before she finishes explaining her need and the why behind it. This can be detrimental because you might undersell a solution (only encrypted email) when they also needed a portal for tax documents and electronic signature.

As sales professionals we get so focused on our product pitch and even our value pitch that we tune out what the client is saying – and instead try to redirect the conversation based on what we assumed they said.

As humans we already are thinking of a response the second someone starts speaking.

Don’t fall into this trap. Truly listen.

A former coworker taught me to always repeat what the client said about their process, goals, etc…

“From what I’m hearing you said you send all your medical records through the mail and you want to digitize that process with an online portal – is that correct?”

This builds trust – showing you are listening to understand and diagnose their problem.

As a Sales Rep/Manager:

Active listening is critical for reps and managers as well.

Mangers and Sales Reps are on the same team – they should be working together, but sometimes pipelines and forecasting meetings tend to be focused on being ‘heard’ but not listening.

Ex: Rep wants to give manager some good advice on a way to organize the team meeting. If the manager is not actively listening – they might make the assumption that the rep is being negative against the current structure – whereas the case is they just want to add to it.

Reps on the other hand might feel antagonistic to managers who are offering additional insights or constructive criticism. Before the manager can say anything – the sales rep is already thinking of a defense strategy instead of reflecting ‘ How can I listen to understand this advice.’ If you listen to understand you are able to see the situation from the other’s point of view – and that will empower you to discern

We’ll continue to focus on HOW to actively listen, but wanted to leave you with some words to ponder on .

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