I have been in sales for most of my career. There are so many facets that make a sales person successful, but one skill I believe is crucial is active listening. So many representatives have their pitch ready, making sure they tell their customer everything they think they want to hear. When I started out in the industry I was one of those representatives. I had my three points I wanted to convey, and I hoped one of them stuck. I used to get plenty of time in front of the customer, but my call was never very effective. Why? I told them what I thought they wanted to hear, and not necessarily what was important to them. I got a nod and a “Thank you for the information.” I was happy with my call and went on to the next, but I never got them to move on the continuum of sales. With my three points, I kept them in the awareness phase. Where I wanted them to be was the adoption phase. I wanted them to start using the product.

I had a new manager join me on a sales call and at the end she asked, “What did you accomplish? Do you think your customer cared about those points? How do you know? It was an ‘aha’ moment for me because it occurred to me that I didn’t know. I didn’t know because I never asked. I went in with my agenda and left when I thought my agenda was accomplished.

The best piece of advice I ever got was to ask a question, and then stop and not say anything. Let the customer talk and get engaged. The key to listening is really listening, and not formulating your response. It is a difficult thing to do because as you are hearing what the other person is saying, you think about how you agree, how you disagree, and how you will respond. But when you really listen and discover what it is really important, that is when you start to gain trust. Once you have discovered either a pain point or a point of passion, you can formulate a way to solve the problem or enhance that passion with your product. There is a way of questioning that can lead a customer down the path of discovery, but the key to any good follow up question is really engaging in a two-way dialogue and garnering what drives your customer.

This can be parlayed into other aspects of life, and not just selling a product. When presenting a product or an idea, try asking a question, and then listen to what your customer or colleague has to say. I guarantee it will be the quickest way to get to the end game–adoption.


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