Listen, do you want to know a secret?
You'll never know how much I really love you.
You'll never know how much I really care
Listen, do you want to know a secret.
Do you promise not to tell, whoa, oo.
Closer, let me whisper in your ear
Say the words you long to hear. I'm in love with you, oo
When it comes to listening, no truer words were ever written than by the Beatles in their 1963 hit "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" Listed below are what I consider the top three traits of a successful sales rep:
1. A good listener
2. A good listener
3. A good listener
Do you have those traits? Many sales reps are too eager to talk. They are thinking about what to say next in a conversation instead of paying attention to the client. The majority of the time the client will actually tell a rep exactly what is needed in order to sell the product or service to them. As my mom used to say, "Listen up".
When I worked in St. Louis several years ago, my general manager and I had lunch with several key players from an advertising agency. Our station had seen very few buys from this agency. What does one do at a lunch with advertising executives besides smooze? Listen up! I was sitting next to the advertising buyer. During the course of lunch, the buyer mentioned in the cold St. Louis winters that she often arrived at work with her hair frozen. Of course, I asked why she came to work with frozen hair. She told me that in the rush to get ready for work her hair was wet when she left the house. Frozen hair was just a small tidbit of information .no biggie, right?
As a sales manager, I had a 10 question test that I took every night on the drive home. The 4th question was "What did you listen to today, and what are you going to do about it?" As I was completing the test that night, I asked what I had heard today that really rose above the clutter. What could I do about it? I went to Walgreens on the way home and bought a hair dryer for the buyer. I wrapped it nicely and sent a note with it to the agency. The note said, "Stay dry in the mornings and blow some money our way."
One week later a $3,000 order 'blew' through the door. That was the first buy from the agency in a long time. A couple of weeks later I ran into the agency principle at another function. He pulled me aside and said the hair dryer was a nice touch. The point that stood out to him was that I was listening. He went on to say that when people are listening, his agency had no problem entrusting their clients' money with that station.
How Do You Listen?
Position to listen. McCartney and Lennon got it right. "Closer, let me whisper in your ear." When listening to a conversation, I want to be as close to a person as I can without infringing on the three foot rule which applies only if standing. If sitting, I want to sit next to the person. If they whisper, I want to be close enough to hear them. Try using the "Power Domain" rule which means get the person away from their desk. For example, find a conference room. Be close to them.
Engage to listen.
Engage your body language to imply listening. Listening has as much to do with body language as it does with paying attention to what is being said. Lean forward when something intriguing is said. Keep that position and then lean back. Moving back and forth is a skill in listening. Do not stay in one position for an extended period of time. Stay long enough to let the client know you are listening to every word. I sometimes like to cock my head to the left or right similar to how my dog Ajax does when his ears perk up. When Ajax's ears perk up, something important is occurring. Tilt your head.move one side of your face towards the conversation with the ear closer to the person. Do it occasionally. Try not to make your head look like it is on a swivel.
Aspire to listen.
I recently had dinner with 8 people from Alaska. I wanted to learn their names and call each person by their first name. I wanted to know as much as possible about each one of them. Again, McCartney and Lennon got it right, "you'll never know how much I really care." So I ask, "What's it like living in Nome, Alaska?" What does the end of the Alaskan pipeline look like in Valdez, Alaska? What does the sound of mating moose call really sound like?" It is more than just cannon fodder when people talk. People do not care how much you know about them. They really just want to know how much you care about them. I know what the Moose mating call sounds like now. It was recorded at dinner that night. You never know when you might need that information!
"Say the words you long to hear." The sweetest sound in any language is your name rolling off someone else's lips. The old adage does hold true here. We have two ears and one mouth. We should do twice as much listening as we do talking. The true secret to successful sales is listening.
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group and can be reached at Sean@luceperforancegroup.com