Hearing is a Courtesy, but Listening is a Compliment
May 15, 2020
Peter Hannes IV
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." --Stephen R. Covey
It’s not our fault. It begins at a young age, when the teacher asks a question, the student who shouts out the reply first gets the praise. We’ve been programmed our whole lives that the one who answers first often wins. That may have been enough in grade school, but it’s not enough today, we have to stop simply hearing people, we have to listen to them.
In sales, it’s our job to determine what our customer wants. In order to do that, we can’t just hear them say what it is they’re after, we have to dig deeper than that. We have to listen about why they want it, and ultimately what the purpose of it is. The goal isn’t to fill them with facts and figures, but rather to create value and transfer emotion. You can only do this effectively if you’re truly listening to your customer. We buy from people we like, people that can understand our values, needs, and wants. To get there, you have to listen.
Three Keys to Effective Listening
- Look at the person you’re listening to. This sounds basic and elementary, but it’s not. If someone is talking to you, put down the phone, stop the distractions, and pay attention. Look them in the eye or read their lips. If your sole focus is what the other person is saying, that’s a great compliment to pay. It shows that you care and that you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Ask Questions. We’ve all been in a conversation where when we finish talking the only response we get is “wow, that’s crazy” and it’s the end of the discussion. That’s a huge turnoff, it shows you’re just trying to get out of the conversation. When you’re paying attention to what someone is saying, pick out some detail and follow up with it. “Wow, that’s interesting, can you explain a bit more” or “tell me more about that” or my personal favorite, “I’m curious” and then follow up with a question. The more you can get the other person to talk about themselves or their side of the issue at hand, the better chance of success you have.
- Summarize and repeat. “So, you’re saying…” Walk the conversation back to them. Take the key details they’ve brought up and repeat them back. If someone tells you what they want in a product or service, the easiest way to create value is to tell them “you said you’re looking for these specific things. This product has these things you said you wanted.” and lay out how your product matches up with what they said they want. It’s not selling, it’s using the requests they gave you and demonstrating your product fits.
The people succeeding today realize it’s not about a single sale, it’s about a relationship. You’re not after a single sale, you’re trying to build a network and foster loyalty. The days of the slick talking salesman are over. Those who succeed today are the ones that realize we have two ears and one mouth, and use them accordingly.