How Deep Listening Separates Elite Sales Professionals from the Pack

04/13/2017 09:05 am ET

How do your sales results stack up against your peers? 

If you’re always leading the pack, you might be reading this to see if there’s an extra insight or nuance you can leverage to enhance your skills. That hunger for learning is one of the things that makes you a top performer!

If you’re a middle-of-the-pack dog, you may simply want to improve your closing rate and make your life easier. And maybe you’re looking to move up. Well, keep reading.

The ability to listen deeply is a key that unlocks doors in all facets of your life, and is a leading factor in your success as a sales professional. 

Consider these quotes:

Nothing I say today is going to teach me anything. If I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. — Larry King, Television Interviewer
Being heard is so close to being loved, that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable. — David Augsberger, Mennonite Minister and author

These quotes capture the profound advantages of listening for the head and the heart.

When you’re fully present and listening deeply, you can gather a wealth of information on many levels, that can be leveraged to deepen your relationship and increase your sales. 

When gathering information, listen for:

Opportunities. This is the most obvious sales benefit to listening, and so it is universally taught in sales training. Ask good questions and listen for what your prospect wants and needs. Get a clear picture of their present situation and also their future goals and challenges.

Communication Style. Here is where we start to move from average to high performers. Researchers Richard Whitely and Diane Hessan have done excellent work on Value Orientation in determining what people and companies need and value from their salesperson. Everyone falls along a continuum in their need for relationship and their need for information.

As you’re listening to your client or prospect, pick up on their signals for how much personal connection they want and need from you, and how much information. Once you get a sense of that, you can adapt your style to meet their needs. 

Values. When in conversation, listen for not just the ‘what’ – the facts of what they share – but also for the ‘how’. How are they talking about their goals and challenges? What do they emphasize? What do they breeze past? What themes are repeated? Do they value family above all? How about prestige? Financial security? Fun? When you’re able to capture not just the facts, but their (sometimes unspoken) priorities, you can position your solutions in a way that will truly connect.

Emotional State. It’s important to listen for emotional state and values. Emotions are transient. It’s important to be able to pick up on how they feel during your interaction, so you can meet them where they’re at. When we miss or misinterpret emotional state, the prospect can feel ignored and get defensive. On the other hand, if you’re present and pick up those signals, you can adapt your communication to honour their feelings. Challenging conversations around fund performance, fees or delicate family issues come to mind. This is also an opportunity to add value by being calm and grounded, and redirecting their focus off of transient emotions and back onto their long-term value-driven goals.

Becoming a world-class listener also requires that we work against our strong impulse to jump in and propose a solution the moment it pops into our heads. 

Instead, slow down, stay present and periodically demonstrate the quality of your listening by reflecting back both the facts and the emotions you’re hearing.

Your efforts will be rewarded with more sales, greater share of wallet, and greater client loyalty. Here’s to your success!

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