As sales people, our job is to understand the customer’s goals, priorities, requirements and risk tolerances by asking those open-ended questions that will fill in the gaps of our knowledge. The more questions we ask, the more we will have to listen to what they tell us. However, there are times when we don’t listen up and tune in to important details – and hear what we should hear in a sales situation.
Sometimes we don’t hear what we should hear in sales situations because we’re already thinking of our next question; we only want to hear what we want to hear; or we miss the details and the context amidst everything being else discussed. And we may know something makes no sense, but we’re embarrassed to point it out.
That reminds me of a funny Broadway play I saw this year, “Something Rotten.” Set in 1595, it’s the story of two brothers who struggle to find success in the theatrical world as they compete with the wildly popular William Shakespeare. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater will involve singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the brothers set out to write the world’s very first musical called “Omelette” – which, by the way, is a “mishearing” of Hamlet.But no one questions that this may not be correct as we watch a musical about eggs!
Here are 3 tips to help listen up and tune in to customers during those all-important meetings:
- Prep for your meeting– Most people write up reports after a call or meeting, but only some prepare in advance. If you prepare in advance and write down the questions you want to ask, then it will give you more of an opportunity to listen. You most likely will ask other questions depending on how they respond, but it leaves you more apt to be an active participant in the conversation.
- Bring along another resource– Having another set of ears is always helpful since each of you will hear things differently based on your past experiences. But make sure the person you bring is someone who has a specific role in that meeting.
- Maximize your time with your customer – If something does not make sense, then say so and ask a question. You may not have another chance to get in front of this busy customer again, so you want to ensure that you leave the call or meeting with as much information as possible.
Your listening skills are probably better than mistaking “Omelette” for “Hamlet,” but would you have embarrassed yourself and asked more questions? Only you would know. It’s a bad feeling going back to your office and realizing that you should have asked more questions. You were listening, but the opportunity passed you by. Don’t let that happen. When we hear what we should hear in sales, we’re much more informed and tuned in to the customer’s needs, priorities and goals.
Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter