I used to visit an Orthotics Consultant with my young son; we went many times over the course of three years, until I stopped going, when it became clear he had long since stopped listening to me. He talked a lot, and seemed like a very nice man; from the things he said it was clear he wanted to help, but the problem was, he wasn’t listening. So every time we went, he made his decisions based on his own preamble, with very little input from me, the parent. Of course, being the expert in his field, this may be seen as the right and true action, but what I really wanted and felt was needed went amiss.
Recently I chatted with a friend, who told me about some challenging family times he was experiencing. I asked questions, I listened, and I affirmed that I was listening. I said very little in way of comment except to acknowledge his difficulty. After the conversation he seemed glad; something had been shared, and he had been allowed to voice his feelings.
Really and truly listening to someone does require attention, it does ask us to be alert to our own voice wanting to jump in with solutions, even when a solution may not be required. In the first scenario above, had I felt listened to, the solutions given could have been exactly the same, but would have felt entirely appropriate, instead of me wondering what had been missed. Listening doesn’t necessarily mean you end up doing anything differently, it just means listening so that the person feels heard. More listening and less talking. A lot less talking.
When we are talking with prospects or customers, giving them the opportunity to fully speak and be heard can make the all-important difference between success and failure, be that failure to sell to them or to make the project successful.
When making sales calls, this advice goes up a notch. Since you have no visual cues to follow, listening and asking questions is the only way you can ascertain a need, which is the only way you can offer your solution! Ask first, pitch second. And in fact, think helping, not selling, because as soon as your call feels like a sales call, you’ve lost.
As well as during conversations, you can also ask for feedback from customers, and conduct surveys, and then pay attention to the results. In this way your customer will also feel heard and valued, and since not a huge amount of SME’s will do this, it can give you the competitive edge you so need.
We’d love to know how you find listening during sales and other scenarios, so please get in touch with your stories. And if you’d like to know more about how we can help you find valuable sales leads, please call us on 0121 347 6601.