The Lost Art of Listening
Some say listening is a lost art, especially when it comes to selling. Said a different way, salespeople talk too much. For example, the victims of timeshare salespeople are promised tantalizing vacation gifts in exchange for “90 minutes” of their time. In reality, the presentations are two and a half hours of talking incessantly. Many timeshare purchases are made just to shut the salespeople up. Little wonder they only close about one of every ten opportunities. Whether you sell timeshares or not, taking the same principles, we need to stop talking and start listening.
Ineffective listening is the norm. Salespeople in other industries are no better at listening, and as a result not much better at closing. Fortunately, listening can be learned quickly. Listening is not the thing to do while waiting to talk. Instead, listening is the most intimate gift given to another person. How often are others so attentive, you actually feel heard? It is as rare as “hen’s teeth” to experience salespeople who actually listen.
Talking, unfortunately, sabotages the majority of the sales that are lost.
When salespeople are asked why they lose deals, about 100 percent of the time they’ll say they lost on price. When buyers are asked why they didn’t buy, price is the reason about nine percent of the time. 67 percent of the time it’s because the salesperson didn’t listen.
Listening takes effort. How do you know if listening is occurring? Interacting with others takes place in one of two forums: face-to-face or on the phone. In either forum, one person, the sender, conveys a message to a receiver. As senders, we think the receiver gets the exact message being sent. What happens more often is that receivers misinterpret the message. You’ve heard of the phenomenon “hearing what you want to hear.” That’s what happens most of the time when interacting with others.
A sender feels heard when the receiver restates the message that was sent. An example would be to restate, “What I’m hearing you say is…is that correct?” Then, the sender can tell the receiver if the message they received was actually the message that was sent. How often do receivers use restatement to let you know they have received your message? Almost never! Small wonder senders don’t feel heard very often.
If the truth were told, listening is not an art, nor is it a science. Listening is a discipline. Listening is really hard work. To become a good listener, there are a few things you can change immediately to become a person everyone, especially potential customers, will love talking to about anything.
1. Monitor the Send/Receive Ratio
In sales interactions, a great guideline to follow to ensure that great listening is occurring is to keep the send/receive ratio at 10 percent send and 90 percent receive. The 10 percent send is for questions and restatement. The 90 percent receive is for giving your full attention to the person and to their message. You are succeeding at listening when they are talking and you are not.
2. Use Restatement
Playing back the exact message you hear when you’re listening is pretty dangerous, but very effective. It’s best to have on rain gear, because what will follow is a flood of information from the sender. They may never stop talking! When senders feel heard, they let their guard down, and it’s the exact situation you’re after in sales interactions. The sender tells the salesperson what they want, and when it’s appropriate, the salesperson tells the potential customer how they can help. Don’t worry if your playback is wrong. The sender will correct you. When they do, pretend it’s exactly what you knew would happen. Avoid reacting defensively.
3. Share the “Air-Time”
Listening to someone is really not conversation. It’s actually a time of unselfishness and restraint. You would prefer to talk, but you know if you do, you’ll be hearing a potential sale fly past your ears out the window. When the interaction turns to conversation, shift the send/receive ratio to 50-50. Keep your messages short and clear. Then let the other party talk. You likely are interacting with a person with sensory overload from the too many E-mails, Voice Mails and Text Messages during the day. A person who is deprived of real human interaction. Imagine what they will feel like when someone cares enough to hear them out.
Listening is powerful. The salesperson that wins most is the one who listens best. Listening is a sure way to develop an intimate relationship with customers that can last for a lifetime.