Guest post from Rob Ferrucci today. I met Rob in a LinkedIn sales group and started following his posts. I’m delighted to share his thoughts about listening and its role in selling. Enjoy!
Being a sales presentation coach I am focused on helping sales people be more effective when they are doing the talking. As a result, I am often reminded by other sales people that sales is “all about listening” that it’s “all about asking questions” that I have “two ears and one mouth and I should use them in that proportion.”
Now, I agree that listening is a critical tool in sales, but I sometimes feel that there is such an emphasis in sales today on listening that we don’t sufficiently appreciate the importance of skillful speaking.
For a sale to occur the prospect and the sales person have to take turns speaking and listening. In the early stages of the process the sales person should do most of the listening but at various points it becomes our turn to educate the prospect about how we can help them. In her book “Perfect Selling” Linda Richardson writes “Dialogue is the tool of your trade. Dialogue is what your customers do to let you into their world. Dialogue is how you shape the customers’ perception of you and the value you bring.”
Effective communication is a two way street. It is about reciprocity and sharing. According to research “Communicators continually affect and are affected by each other in a system of reciprocal influence” (Adler 2006). So of course we want to ask questions and listen in order to understand the prospects’ core competencies, their issues and their goals. But keep in mind that they also want to understand our core competencies and our solutions and they want to hear how our product or service can address their issues and goals.
Strong presentation skills (whether used in formal presentation or conversation) are the most effective way to communicate our value to our prospects. In his book “The Boxcar Millionaire” sales expert Tom Black says “The best tool you have is your words. What comes out of your mouth determines your success or failure. If this weren’t true everyone could send out brochures and power point presentations and make six figures.”
At some point in the sales process you will have to start doing more talking than listening because the prospect wants to know how you can help them. They need to understand your solution to their struggles or your plan to help them achieve their goals.
I’ll refer again to Richardson who, in “Perfect Selling” has a chapter called “Leverage” dedicated to the concept that once we understand the prospects’ situation it is now our turn to deliver the solution. Richardson writes “Once you have prepared, asked questions and listened the task remains to use that knowledge to tailor what you say.”
In other words, asking smart questions and doing lots of listening gives us a competitive advantage only if we then combine what we’ve learned with persuasive presentation skills and communicate a solution that the prospect decides will improve their situation.
Therefore, we must be able to communicate these things to the prospect in an effective and organized way. First because they expect that from us and second because it is impossible to close a sale without providing the prospect with logical and persuasive reasons why they should buy from us.
Sales trainer Patrick Hansen has written that “This stage (presentation) most influences the success or failure of the sale.” This is because it is when we are presenting or speaking that we prove to the prospect that we understand their situation, this is the payoff to the prospect for answering all our questions. But more than that, we must then prove to them that we have the right solution to improve that situation. Without providing back to the prospect a solution that addresses their specific needs what exactly is the purpose of asking all those questions?
Sales trainer and best-selling author Terri Sjodin identifies three characteristics of the top sales producers 1) the belief that they can be a top producer 2) great listening skills 3) excellent presentation skills. For Sjodin listening and presentation or speaking skills cannot be separated but are both essential for sales success. This is because without effective questions and listening skills a persuasive presentation cannot be developed and without a persuasive presentation value cannot be communicated.
So by all means ask questions, gather information and look for problems that you can solve. But when you’re done asking questions and listening make sure you know how to lay out a persuasive case for your solution…and start talking.
Rob Ferrucci coaches sales professionals on how to design and deliver persuasive sales presentations. Using seminars, workshops and personalized consulting Rob guides sales teams through his 9 step process for designing and delivering a presentation that will not only inform but also persuade the prospect and position the sales person to close the deal. Rob focuses on effective presentation structure, persuasive techniques and the effective use of power point. A life-long sales representative Rob is also an award winning public speaker and presentation coach. Website: robertferrucci.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 203 482 4777