Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are flexible: they can adapt to changing circumstances or client needs efficiently."

Great Salespeople Must Be Good Listeners

Great Salespeople Must Be Good Listeners

It has been said that “Rapt attention is the highest form of flattery.” I believe that Dale Carnegie said that quote first, but it is hard to tell and actually doesn’t matter. The quote is insightful.

If you want people to listen to you, then you need to listen to them. To truly listen to someone–not just to hear the words the other is saying but to pay attention to the message contained in the words–is the highest compliment we can give another person. It means that the other person is important enough to us so that we are willing to give him or her our most valuable commodity: our time.

Listening can provide a bond of intimacy that deepens our connection to others. It can enrich our personal relationships. It can increase our earning potential as a professional salesperson.

Listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with practice. It is difficult to fully concentrate on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the speaker. Here are some guidelines:

  • Minimize both internal and external distractions.
  • Show you’re listening by your nonverbal communication and physically demonstrate empathy to the speaker. Some self-help tomes that discuss listening will tell you to maintain a neutral physical position and not respond to the speaker. This is silly and unnatural. Show that you are indeed human and react to the speaker’s thoughts appropriately. The reaction will help you actively engage in the opinions being presented by the speaker.
  • Don’t interrupt and don’t be judgemental. Let the person finish what he is saying before you explain your point of view or ask questions. (More on this below)
  • Stay focused on the subject.
  • Be prepared to clarify and summarize what you are hearing. This will become even more obvious in the next few paragraphs, but you need to remind yourself that you are going to use this what the speaker is saying later in the conversation. This may require you to take physical notes but, at a minimum, you will need to make mental notes.

Once you have listened to what your prospect is saying, you need to do nothing. Take a breath. It doesn’t need to be a cleansing breath to relieve stress, but breathing is a great clock manager. Most adults do a complete breath cycle (in-then-out) in about three or four seconds when you are not exercising. Three or four seconds is a significant pause. During that pause, continue to look directly at the now silent speaker.

There are two reasons for the one-breath pause. The first reason is you need time to think about what you heard, and you need time to think about what you are going to say. The second reason is that nature abhors a vacuum and it is very likely that the speaker will fill this silence with more words. In that case, you will have more information about the next thing to say. In almost every case, you do not want to speak until the other person is completely done speaking (remember the “don’t interrupt” rule above).

During this one-breath pause, you must decide what kind of Trap has been just set for you. Make no mistake about it, if the prospect has just talked to you about things that pertain to you, your company, or your product then it is a Trap. I explain this much more in my book Eliminate Your Competition, but every response that you have to deal with is a type of a Trap. The three types of Traps are:

  1. Accidental Traps – this is honest information gathering by the prospect, not an actual evil Trap designed to destroy you. It is an opportunity to lose the sale, and it is an opening to Trap the competition.
  2. Unintentional Traps – In this case, the prospect doesn’t know he is being used by the competition. This is the most frequent type of Trap.
  3. Collaborative Traps – Competitors place these Traps with the full knowledge and assistance of the prospect. Collaborative Traps are relatively rare in most sales campaigns, but they are the most dangerous if misdiagnosed.

I discuss this in much more detail in my book. You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Now you need to respond. It takes practice to respond effectively. This practice should be in the comfort of your home or office. Maybe a co-worker or manager can help but if not, practice with a mirror.

Your response should be to escape the Trap that was just set for you and set a Trap in return. Remember, you are not trying to Trap your prospect; you are Trapping your competitors. Also, it is not a bad thing that you help your prospect find deficiencies in your competitor’s offering; you are helping them to make a sound decision with all of the facts. Also, you cannot set an effective Trap if you do not listen intently.

The four primary steps in escaping a Trap are:

  1. Clarify the meaning of the question.
  2. Acknowledge the business importance of the request.
  3. Respond to the request with a well-thought-out answer.
  4. Using the steps below, set a Trap that is similar to the original request.

The four steps in Trap setting are:

  1. Develop the need with Bait (this is explained more fully in my book Eliminate Your Competition).
  2. Confirm that you meet the need.
  3. Question whether the competition meets the need.
  4. Request feedback on how the competition responds.

If you haven’t read my book Eliminate Your Competition, this may seem difficult to pull off. Hopefully, after you have read my techniques in the book and you have practiced it a few times, it becomes easier to accomplish.

Escaping a collaborative or accidental Trap is much more critical and challenging to accomplish than escaping an unintentional Trap. The successful Trapper understands that he will lose the sales campaign if he cannot listen effectively and escape Traps.

Header Photo by Couleur (Pixabay)

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