Listen up or lose out, is not only the title of this column, its not only the title of a great new book I just came across, but it’s also the best advice that you can give anyone no matter what their field of business is. And, of course it is especially cogent advice for those of in sales.
Looking back over past columns, I see that I have done a many of columns on listening, true intentional listening. But obviously never enough because it is still the number one problem I deal with when I am training sales people. And frankly, I think it is getting worse. People are practicing the at of intentional listening less today than ever before. We are all so in love with the sound of our own voices that we seldom actually stop for a minute and listen to what the other person is saying.
Think of the political situation in this country today for example….er nope not going there, never mind. Let’s instead turn to the art of listening that successful communicators practice.
First of all I would urge you all to run out and buys this book by Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton. I mean run out right now…I’ll wait. That’s how important I think this new book is. Its not only one of the rare books on this extremely important subject, it could be the book on the subject.
The book covers everything you need to know about listening including how to develop the right skills to be a great listener, not an easy task. Here are some of the subjects covered in this book:
- Knowing when to listen and when to speak: Full disclosure, this is one of the challenges that I face every day, especially on the phone. It happens when I think that the person I am talking has finished saying what she wanted to say and there is a pause, and I take that opportunity to jump in, only to realize she was taking a short break and wasn’t done. Then we have one of those awkward verbal dances filled with, “sorry go ahead.” “No, you go.” “No you.” And that goes on for a while. This happens to me because I am petrified of pauses. I hate the pause, its scares the heck out of me. This book address how to handle the pauses.
- Asking the right questions at the right time: Listening is also key to a great conversation and then the right questions, the questions whose answers are going to move the conversation forward and lead it to where you want it to go. Obviously, this is a very important tactic when driving a sales pitch.
- Listening intentionally, instead of thinking about what you are going to say when this person stops talking: Oh, I am guilty of this one. It’s another one I need to work on. Honestly, I think this is the most challenging issue to overcome. We are so busy focusing on what we are going to say next. that we can miss the gist of what the person is saying right now. And, in many cases by not listening intently we can be missing something the person says that could make the answer we are preparing, ridiculous. Example: You are talking to your customer about when she is going to place that next order. While she is talking about all the things her company must consider when placing that order, you are preparing to ask her point blank if she can tell you whether or not the order will be placed this month yet. And while your formulating that question she is saying that the order will be placed next week. When she is done talking, you jump in and ask her when the order will be placed! Busted! That eye-roll you get from her is saying, ‘if you had been paying attention you would have the answer to your question.”
- Listening like you mean it: When you’re listening intently, really listening to someone your entire being takes part. Your eyes are looking at the person, your body is hunched forward, you find yourself nodding in agreement. Your body is telling that person that you are listening…that you are paying attention.
- Knowing when the person has more to say but just needs the time to say it: Oh, that dreadful pause again. Relax while your listening. Let a little pause in there once in a while it will be worth it.
Finally, one quick story about when intentional listening and living with the pause paid off. Years ago, I was trying to close a military contract with a customer down in Tampa, Florida. I had been working on this contract for months. The customer was stalling, and I knew there was another supplier nipping at my heels. I had a heard that the other supplier had been to visit this customer only the week before. So, I called the buyer to see what the situation was; and I could tell…by listening like my life was depending on it (because it was)- that he was wavering. He had gone from, “All you have the do is sharpen your pencil a little bit more and the contract is yours.” To now on this phone call he had started wavering. So, I made s snap decision and told him that my pencil was sharp, I would put the finishing touches on my final proposal, send it to him and I would be there Monday to close the deal.
Monday, I flew to Tampa, was there for our meeting at 1:30 sitting across the desk from him. We had discussed the new proposal, He said he liked it but that he would still have to think about it for a few days. I looked him straight in the eye and told him, “no, I flew down here to close this deal, and this is what I am going to do.” I then put my pen, a gold Cross pen, in front of him and told him he needed to sign our contract. And then I sat back and shut up…and he shut up, and we sat there for over five minutes without either of us saying a word, seeing who was going to be able to handle the silence the longest and then he caved. He looked at me, shook his head, said “you &&^%&& and picked up the pen and signed the contract! And that ladies and gentlemen is what can happen when you are not living in fear of the dreadful silent pause.
The book is published by Amacon. It’s called Listen up or Lose Out I urge you to buy. and read it. It’ll be the best twenty bucks you’ve spent this year. It’s only common Sense