When Agreement is Really Disagreement – Happy Ears for Salespeople


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Your salesperson asks his prospect a question like, “Does that make sense?” and his prospect replies, “Sure.”  Feeling relieved that his explanation was successful, your salesperson moves on, an unwitting participant in what will become a huge surprise to him. 

Why will it be a surprise? 

Your salesperson had happy ears – he heard what he wanted to hear and missed the accompanying signals that should have alerted him to the fact that he got lip service rather than the truth. 

Perhaps you’re thinking, “but my people sell on the phone, not face to face, so how will they be able to see it?” 

They must listen – and listen for what’s not said as much as for what is said.  In a scenario like the one I described above, they can simply push back a little by saying, “I know you said, ‘sure’ but I had the feeling that you didn’t really mean ‘sure’.”

That’s when the prospect will admit that he wasn’t really comfortable with the explanation, didn’t completely understand how it would help, didn’t really see the need for that one benefit, and isn’t impressed – yet.  And his resistance goes up.  By the way, click here for a great explanation of resistance on Rick Roberge’s Blog.

So two things can happen.  Your salespeople can sail through their discussions, hear what they want to hear, believe they have a strong opportunity and never quite understand why it doesn’t close. Or, they can stop, push back, and help their prospects communicate the real issue.  Then they will have a chance to deal with it while the prospect can still remember what the problem is.

Happy Ears or Effective Salespeople?  It all comes down to training, coaching, observation skills, commitment and practice.  When put that way, there is as much burdon on you as there is on your salespeople.  Are you up for this challenge?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Dave: The salesperson might have had happy ears, but the question, “Does that make sense?” set him/her up to fail in the first place because it’s a leading question. It implies what the salesperson just said should make sense. A better question would be “What are your thoughts?”


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