Listening is helpful when done right. Most sales professionals don't, I didn't.
The hard truth is listening will never, ever help you close a deal unless you make it part of a much larger skill set. More impactful though than listening are the two skills that come after it, they are actually the skills that put listening into action.
I learned to sell like most people, through years of trial and lots of error and through practice and desire. Everything I read talked about listening and asking questions. The books all discussed the various skills needed to be able to sell. But there was a gap in my education, or at least in my understanding.
Eventually, in a complex enterprise SaaS sales environment I started working with Josh Weeks, the company president who understood what I didn't. Through his persistent example, I finally was able to put the missing pieces into place. I connected the gaps that came after listening to all the other skills needed in selling.
In addition to the foundational character aspects of trust and curiosity, I learned that the tool-set needed to be able to succeed in today's global market includes these 3 distinct skills or abilities:
1. Active Listening
The foundation. You need to stop moving your mouth. How well you listen always sets the foundation for every relationship.
As opposed to just passively receiving information, active listening means asking questions and making sure that you concentrate, respond, and remember what was heard. Active listening is impactful because it helps your client feel validated and while you learn at the same time.
2. Developing Deep Understanding
If you listen but do not understand what the customer is saying, no amount listening will ever help the client. You will never guide them toward the best for them buying decision if you do not understand the product, the industry, the potential applications, the potential challenges, and the current situation.
Developing true understanding is not easy. It means asking thoughtful questions, it means studying on your own time, it means thinking deeper and connecting the dots. It means being truly curious. If you are curious you will do what it takes to understand.
3. Crafting Impactful Scenarios
Once you have listened and truly understand all the important facts and situations, scenarios are where you really find success. As you explain applicable scenarios, this is when the customers actually begin to trust you as more than a vendor.
Scenarios are stories that the client connects with because the same situations are happening to them. Asking question based on scenarios leads to better information. Once they have explained different situations then you can fill in the gaps with the best solution, or even better create a new reality. When you are using scenarios to help them see a better future, be certain that the scenarios focus on where your product or service can have the most impact. Make sure your demos are scenario based rather than feature based.
Scenario application is not just about making the current situation better. Most of the time, a good scenario paints a picture that was never thought of before or shows an insight that is only gained through serious expertise.
In sales, the value you add is your ability to help people have hope for better experiences. Once they have hope, then they can make decisions that drive growth and satisfaction. In order to help drive that hope, the future you help them paint needs to be clear and compelling. The vision needs to become real to them, and that is done through the effective use of scenario creation and explanation. Scenarios cannot be created though until true listening and deep understanding is already in place.
The best way to help others, especially in sales, is to be open, to be honest, and to stay curious. If you do that, your scenarios will always make the most sense to your potential clients, and your will business grow.