My dear Dad was an amazing character full of wit and charm, but at the ripe old age of 97, as to be expected, his hearing was a little challenged. Despite all the modern advances, even the very best hearing aids struggled to assist him. Nonetheless, he got by, but it did make for some amusing conversations. I remember one occasion when I asked him if he was ready to go, and he responded by asking me if it was forecast to snow. My Dad’s issue led me to think about the challenges we face in sales and if, on sales calls, we do our very best to listen to our prospects. It can be a struggle and can hurt us in the sales process.
During my selling career, I listed listening as a development area of my sales skills. I had to work hard to be conscious of it all the time. I would often find myself thinking a step or two in advance of the conversation with a prospect. My mind was sometimes thinking about what I was going to say next, or I would find myself assuming that I knew what might be coming next. As Julia Roberts once said in the movie Pretty Woman, when the shop refused to sell her some items, “Big Mistake, Big Mistake.” There are also times in sales calls when we fail to recognize those on the other side of the table and their personality traits. For example, when talking to an introvert, they typically take eight seconds to hear and digest a question you might ask them. As an extrovert, these eight seconds can seem like an eternity. We often run right over the question with another during the silence, barely listening to the answer to the first question. I once was on a call where I thought I heard a buying signal because I had only heard part of the sentence. I went for the close with complete and utter failure and was rather embarrassed in the process. Sound familiar?
We should all take a cue from our mothers in selling, as mine used to always say “You were given two ears and one mouth; therefore, you should listen twice as much as you speak.” Thanks, Mom. Mom always knows best, right? In reality, Mom was spot on, but we often refuse the advice. So, what can we do to be better listeners? The first thing we need to do is gear ourselves to slow down. Listening takes patience and the ability to understand and translate what is being said to us. Listening also involves considering what the person talking is not saying but rather doing while they are speaking. Turning on your emotional intelligence here is key, and reading the body language you see and matching it with the spoken word is essential. In addition, I always like to digest the local language I am hearing. What is specific to this business? What are their acronyms and phrases? And once the prospect has finished speaking, I like very much to repeat back what I have heard to make sure that we are aligned, and we can advance. This certainly sounds a lot easier than it is in an actual sales situation. We are, after all, salespeople and want to talk and communicate the fantastic features and benefits of the product we are selling. As hard as it is, resist that urge. Why?
When we listen, it is amazing what we pick up. We make our sales process much easier because, in many cases, when a prospect is let speak, they share more than we could ever imagine. What business does not like to talk about itself and its product? When we listen and show genuine interest and that we have heard them, and more importantly, that we understand them, do we build trust? Is this not one of the key ingredients in sales? Along the way, we will learn things to use later in the sales process to advance our sales and build credibility.
So next time you’re in the presence of an aging elder, and they cannot hear you, you’ll know it’s probably not their fault. You might even get a chuckle or two out of some of the things they say. But if you’re a salesperson and a little younger than my dad, know that listening should be very much in your control. Work hard to hear what is being said, and you’ll know, as my dad, that it’s not snowing out, but time to go.
Roger McNamara Bio:
Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple industries and across the globe that include Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR’s, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales, B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $300 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchants pay to accept Credit, and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and associations. Roger has also developed the insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces, in general, to be able to better position their products and gain share, particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.