Hearing What We Want To Hear


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Sales people are eternally optimistic–it’s a great strength of sales people and critical. After all, we get a lot of “no’s,” if we let them stop us, we would never achieve anything.

Yet sometimes our optimism is our downfall. We tend to accept things that fit “our picture,” not challenging them. We tend to listen selectively, hearing what we want to hear, not necessarily hearing what is really being said.

I see this all the time. I’m conducting a deal review, the salesperson reviews what’s going on, but something doesn’t ring right. I often say, “this really doesn’t make sense, if I were in the customer’s shoes, I wouldn’t be doing this, why are they saying they will?” Usually, the salesperson looks at me, there’s that look in their eyes, “why are you spoiling this for me, I really want to win this deal!”

We are driven to win deals, but we don’t help ourselves by deceiving ourselves. If we hear only what we want to hear, we miss a lot–we miss what the customer’s real needs are, we miss their real problems, we misunderstand their decision making processes, we underestimate the competition. It’s important for us to face reality in every sales situation–however good or bad. Once we understand the real situation, then we can develop strategies to deal with what’s really happening.

We need to be somewhat skeptical of everything we hear or see. Customers may not want to displease us, so they may not communicate as directly as we would want them to communicate. It’s a natural human tendency–we want to avoid conflict or confrontation. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. It causes all of us to adjust how we communicate–not intending to mislead someone, but just in trying to avoid unpleasant or difficult conversations.

As sales people, we make this worse by adding our own filters. We dont’ want to hear bad things, we want the customer to be as enthusiastic about our solution and company as we are. We want them to believe as strongly as we do. We want to go back to our managers and peers to report how well things are going.

Healthy skepticism, some level of paranoia works! We must continue to be cautious, we must test ourselves:

  • Does this really make sense? If we were in our customers’ shoes, what would we do?
  • Are we missing something? Have we really probed the customer to understand what they are saying and what’s driving what they are saying?
  • Have we asked the tough questions? Are we really testing what we are hearing from the customer?
  • Are there objections the customer should have, but aren’t articulating?
  • Are we avoiding critical issues because we may be afraid of what the customers’ responses might be?

Make sure you really understand what’s going on in each deal. Don’t let your optimism blind you. What you don’t know, what you aren’t hearing can hurt you!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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