Developing listening skills

Fundamental to all selling transactions is need identification; to an experienced salesman, a statement which is a near cliché.

Without discovering a sale prospect’s need, the only option is to just proceed as if. You pretend that you already know a prospect’s need, or that the need isn’t relevant to what you have to say. The difference in a sale transaction’s outcome is potentially profound.

In one instance you are tuned in, the prospect’s need confirmed, their confidence and trust established; in the other, you charge into the fray, the transaction’s point obscured by clouds of irrelevance. One approach applies a consciously developed skill; the other, just boorish behavior.

Anyone who has ever taken selling head-on is familiar with the condition, and its potentially unsatisfactory results. The appearance can be easily mistaken for lack of thinking. But not so.

Effective selling requires that you stop thinking, and listen, actually hearing the prospect’s need, then feeding back your understanding to confirm what you thought you heard, and what was really said, were one and the same. That form of listening has been given a name—active listening.

Active listening is one of the first selling’s first skills to develop; also among the more difficult. There are several reasons for active listening’s difficulty to develop: most common is the probability of thinking about what you will say next while the other person is responding to what was probably a question asked of them. Another, of equally confusing potential, is assuming that meaning ofwhat was said was what was heard.

To address the problem, confirm your understanding of everything spoken by a sale prospect, before you speak any thoughts of your own. After a few times of consciously applying what will likely be a behavior new to you a habit will develop. And, with that, the ability to uncover need will become as natural to you as walking or driving a car.

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Ron Brock

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