The following reprint of today’s “makingthenumbers.com” sales tip is a solid testimonial to the importance of probing, trial closing, and listening within the sales process…
In most states you can turn right on a red traffic signal, but the law requires you to come to a full stop before you do.
In sales, it is vital that you work with a specific detailed pre-call objective so you know exactly where you are going (or want to go). Before you get into gear, come to a full stop!
Not just a “How you doin’ today?” or “How are things?”
That’s not a full stop.
You have to ask specifically, “Is your quarter coming in on schedule?” “How is the new production manager working out?” “Is the new product launch of your competitor having any real effect on your key customer?”
Then let them say what they want to say. Let them tell you what is on their mind. They might tell you some things that you can play to when it’s your turn in the barrel. They may tell you they are having a “bad hair day,” and in that case you might decide to cut them some slack, cut short your call, and sell in a future appointment as a professional courtesy.
One way or the other, test the water before you take the plunge.
Not only the temperature, hot or cold, but the depth and what’s on the bottom as well. Give them a break. They will give you the business in return.
Following-up on our previous post about the power of questions, it only seemed right that we address the other ‘half’ of the probing equation: LISTENING.
In an earlier post we shared some facts about listening; and as you may know, most communication experts consider it to be the most important communication skill. Unfortunately, listening also tends to be the communication skill at which most of us are the least proficient.
A well-known quote from Calvin Coolidge exemplifying this perspective: “No man ever listened himself out of a job!”
If we’re able to enhance our probing skills and, as a result, ask better questions during sales calls or important meetings, it is important that we effectively listen to the answers to those questions.
Here are three best practices for improving our ability to listen:
- Prepare for sales calls or important meetings in writing. As noted in the previous post referenced above, is best to put an equal amount of focus on what we will “say” as well as what we will “ask” when preparing ourselves. However, one of the key benefits of preparing ourselves in this fashion (in writing) is that it eliminates the biggest obstacle to good listening – that being the distraction associated with thinking about what WE will say or ask next while others are speaking. If we’re distracted in this way, we cannot listen effectively.
- Set a desired TALK / LISTEN ratio as part of the pre-call or pre-meeting plan outlined in item #1. Most people agree that they communicate differently (and more effectively) when they have given themselves a target to “only talk 40%” or to “listen at least 70%” of the time during interactions with others.
- Take notes during sales calls and meetings – and to be clear, these notes are not the same as meeting minutes, as the intent is to capture highlights rather than everything that is said. Wondering why? Well, note-taking helps us to maintain a stronger focus on what others are saying because it keeps our mind from wandering. It also turns our listening into a multi-sense activity (i.e., we listen with our ears, our sense of touch and our eyes).
Research data indicates that “listening” is the most important communication skill, and that it is also the most frequently-used communication skill.
Unfortunately, it’s also the one at which most of us are the least efficient.
To improve our skills, it might be wise to first recognize a few often-forgotten truths about listening (see link below) and then determine how we might best go about improving our listening abilities… which will result in many additional positive outcomes. Here’s a link to the full article along with 10 listening skill-builders from which you can choose the one (s) that are right for you:
For example, sales people who improve their ability to listen are likely to find they are suddenly able to more accurately assess customers’ needs. Sales managers who improve their ability to listen are likely to find they are suddenly able to motivate their teams more effectively.
Read full article…