Clarity Tip Sheet...

How To Use Listening Techniques to Gain Business Advantage

Thereís an anecdote about why sales people have two ears and only one mouth: they should listen more than they should talk. Thatís often hard, but competing for customers is so tough that thereís no longer space for sales people who do not have key success skills: empathy and a winnerís mindset.

Empathy and Winnerís Mindset
The times are long gone when it was enough to simply present your products to a sufficient number of prospects to achieve reasonable sales levels. Thatís why, today, you can see marked differences between good and poor sales people.

But what makes the difference between good and poor sales people? Fundamentally, two things seem to influence it: the personís ability to empathise and their Attitude and Approach.

The winnerís attitude can be difficult to modify. But empathy can certainly be improved...:

Preparation pays
Youíd often wonder why sales people donít prepare themselves more thoroughly, because rewards can be great. One of the best ways to prepare is to conduct an ABC-segmentation of the market so that sales teams donít have to waste time on the typical 50% unexciting ďCĒ-prospects.

At the same time, ABC segmentation will provide a good picture of the buyers and their needs before the sales person enters the dialogue. Knowing these factors makes it a lot easier to understand the customerís situation Ė and get the order.

Another way to prepare is to take inspiration from lawyers. Before a lawyer enters a court of law theyíll have prepared a number of questions, and theyíll have tried to anticipate responses so that they can pose follow-up questions.

Why do so few sales people do this?

Listen more, talk less
Only by listening can a sales person hope to fully understand the other partyís situation, so that the sales process can be based on the buyerís needs and not in the sellerís product.

Naturally, one important prerequisite for listening is that the other party is talking. The best way to make get the other party talking is by asking questions.

Yet, not only the type and nature of questions are important; itís also imperative to ask them in the right sequence.

SPINning your way through Project or Solution Selling
As we know, industrial or business-to-business markets tend to be more complex and project-oriented. It often takes more than one visit, sometimes months worth of consultations and negotiations.

Contrary to other approaches, Neil Rackhamís SPIN method is based on scientific observations, not merely aphorisms and anecdotes. The SPIN approach seeks to analyse four areas, uncovering the prospectís implicit and unexpressed needs Ė and make the prospect recognise the reward from going with the sales personís proposed solution.

Situational questions uncover the prospectís current situation.
Problems/Issues questions uncover the clientís problems, difficulties, and frustrations
Implication questions uncover consequences and implications of the prospectís problems
Need / Pay-off questions gain the prospectís perception of benefits from the proposed solution.

Posed intelligently, these questions should lower barriers and defences Ė often to an extent where the prospect almost talks him- or herself into a purchase.

What really differentiates a consultant from a sales person
A different class of empathy is the primary difference between a sales person and a consultant; the true consultant is capable of identifying with the other partyís situation. This means that, contrary to a traditional sales person, a consult is willing to forego short term wins because he or she has realised a greater long run potential.

Consultants also build longer lasting relations with customers based on mutual trust and respect. Additionally, consultants achieve a higher degree of trustworthiness due their attentiveness, expertise and genuine care for the customerís success.

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