“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
-Stephen R. Covey, Author, Speaker
Most new salespeople do not really listen to their prospects. They are waiting to talk — to talk about their product or service, their agenda, their company, what they want. The key to high close ratios and record sales? Listen to FIND. Listen to understand their point of view, their challenges, their concerns, their objectives. Once you know what the prospect really wants, learn why they want it and what it will mean to them to achieve it. Only then are you in a position to offer solutions that will help them reach their goals. Frank Bettger said, “Find out what people want and help them get it!” Short and sweet.
Embrace the acronym W.A.I.T. – “Why Am I Talking?”
In my second year of selling, I met a man named Ron. He was an affable sort of fellow, social, outgoing, fun. I asked him, “How did you get started in this business?” He talked for three hours. When he finally stopped, it was as if he just awoke from a coma! “So why are you here?” he asked. I smiled and said, “Well based on all the things you just told me, I am certain we can lower your operating costs and provide you with the service to your HVAC equipment that you deserve.” He beamed and replied, “THAT is exactly what I want! When can we start?” It was the largest sale I had made up to that point in my career. It made my year. Here is what I did. If I can, you can, too.
- Ask open-ended questions. To open up a conversation, ask WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW, WHY. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem to teach his 12-year old son the power of asking open ended questions:
I keep six honest serving-men,
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.
- Listen actively. Listen with intention. Listen with the objective to understand. Listen to empathize. Listen to clarify. Listen.
- Pause 3-5 seconds. Most of the time the other person will continue to talk. Let them.
- Question for clarification. Ask, “How do you mean?” or, “Can you give me an example?” and listen some more.
- Paraphrase to understand. This is the part of the process that pulls it all together, the glue. If you have understanding they will respond in a favorable and enthusiastic way.
- You will hear the words: “Exactly!” or “YES!” or “Riiight!” That is how you will know if you have hit the nail on the head.
- Now you are in a position to offer solutions. “A choice of yeses.”
- Write up your proposal and close the deal.
It’s a simple process, it’s just not easy. It’s hard. It requires a kind of un-learning to master the active listening process; it requires a dying of self and ego. What if you don’t get to talk? Would that be so bad? Would you rather be right or rich? Active listening is a habit, perhaps the best habit you can adopt if you are to be one of the top sales producers in your industry. In a real sense, it’s not just a great skill, it’s a way of being, a philosophy of life.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
-Larry King, radio & TV talk show icon
At the risk of repeating myself, here it is: “Find out what people want and help them get it!” As Nike says, “Just do it!” Your clients will tell you things they don’t tell their barber, banker or best friend.
Why am I talking?