Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Listen First, Talk Later
You may have heard the statement, "That is why God gave you two ears and only one mouth, to listen twice as much as you speak." Listening more than you speak is good advice for any human being, but especially so for salespeople and marketers.
A marketer that has not asked open-ended response questions of customers and potential customers in depth interviews, focus groups and other qualitative research forums is at an extreme disadvantage. I even load my quantitative research instruments up with those types of questions. And a salesperson who sticks to the selling script and makes sure he hits on all of the qualifying questions without first building rapport and trying to understand the customer's hopes, fears, needs and desires is an ineffective salesperson.
I recently read an article that indicated that most people listen to formulate their response rather than to understand.
If I have said this once, I have said it thousands of times - a brand personifies an organization and its products and services. In this way, it is able to build an emotional connection with its audiences. Emotional connection starts with rapport building. It grows with understanding, deep understanding. I counsel marketers that they should know their customers' beliefs, attitudes, values, hopes, fears, anxieties, needs and desires. Further, they should know where these customers go for information and advice about the brand's product or service category. Frankly, they should also know something about the customer's personal life. I often ask the question, "What keeps you up at night?"
Listen first and speak later. And when the customer is on a roll, follow that line of thought. Did you know that people who do more listening than talking are more likable than people who do more talking than listening? Everyone wants to be heard. And one cannot be heard if you are too busy talking.
I was recently in a very high end men's clothing store. I was interested in purchasing a variety of items. But the salesperson, rather that watching me to see what I gravitated toward, kept on leading me to items and styles in which I had no interest. When I did not respond positively to his direction, he only tried harder. I did not buy anything from that store that day. My wife was with me and encouraged me to stay and try on the items in which I was interested. I respectfully declined to do so. I had to get out of there because the salesperson was annoying me to the point of complete frustration.
A good salesperson or marketer has a sense of what motivates people, why they act the way they do, when they are displaying buying signals and when they are signaling that they are annoyed, bored or angry. Being able to read body language is also a plus in this profession. But the most important thing is ask the right questions and then to carefully listen to the responses to those questions, including the nonverbal responses.
My client proposals have a very high acceptance rate. Why? Because when I am on a sales call, I ask the right questions to best understand the person's pain points, what he wants to accomplish and what he would consider to be a win. And then I feed that understanding back to him along with my recommended approach based on his very specific needs. People have used different words to describe this process including consultative selling and strategic selling. What is is not is transactional selling.
The bottom line: Listen to your customers before you say anything to them. You have two ears and one mouth.