I keep being amazed by how few salespeople know to just listen, listen to what the customer’s problems are (their “pains”).
I have recently conducted research for a client that included finding out how well their salespeople performed. I know it is a tough economy out there, but the worse sales get, the more talking this company’s salespeople were doing. This is backwards!
When I spoke to the customers, they told me they did not want to hear all about the features that were nice, but did not apply to their specific problem area. In fact, the more the salespeople spoke about those features, the more the customer thought, “How much is all that going to cost me?!” Many of the salient features in the salesperson’s discussion were neither needed nor wanted, at any price.
The best salespeople in the study actually spoke the least, but were classified as “very good listeners,” among other traits. Sales necessarily involves building trust between the salesperson and the customer. The skill of “active listening” builds trust. The best salespeople demonstrated this skill in their work. The customers felt that the best salespeople really understood their pain, their issue. These salespeople only spoke after listening carefully to the concerns of the customer, what their pains were, even if they did not involve the salesperson’s product or service. These salespeople spoke about the features that addressed the pain of the customer, or the features that the customer asked about. They spoke of resources beyond or in addition to their own products and services that might be accessible to the customer. When this “active listening” technique was employed, the customers trusted the salesperson, perceived them as knowledgeable beyond their own products and services, and thought the extra features were a bonus, not an unnecessary expense. It was the same device, with the same features, but the perception of the customer was shaped by the behavior of the salesperson.
How do your salespeople stack up?
Chris, this is really outstanding. If the sales person took more time in asking questions and actively listening, the customer actually gives the sales person the road map on what needs to be presented/proven to earn their business. It saves time and frustration on both the customer’s and sales person’s parts —they don’t have to waste time on issues irrelevant to the customer.
Thanks for the thoughtful post!