A wise man once said, “I remind myself each morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
That’s worthy of a sticky note on your computer, right?
If you’re in business of “selling,” that quote is a keeper. Nothing happens without really good listening.
Without really listening, how can we truly understand how a prospect defines her issue? What criteria he uses to evaluate alternative solutions? If we don’t listen, how can we possibly position our solution from their perspective so that ours is the only one that can really make sense?
Nonetheless, in our experience at Altus Alliance, even in the question-driven process of Discovery, there is far too little true listening. And since just about all experts agree that Discovery is the most part of the sales process, that’s a serious “fail.” Sure, we can ask the questions and record the answers, but how much time are we spending listening for the “music behind the words”? Words alone don’t tell us how big the prospects issue is, how much pain they’re in. What cues are we listening for?
And the need for excellent listening obviously goes well beyond the sales process. How much listening training has your customer success team had? How important is listening to the customer in the process of building a fantastic customer experience?
What does really good listening look like? Here are three key basics:
- Ask one good open-ended question at the beginning, then shut up and let the customer talk.
- Seek clarification; ask for additional information. Even if you’re sure you’ve understood the customer completely, ask for more. It demonstrates that you’re definitely listening. This is critical if you’re on the phone and there is no other way for the customer to know she’s been heard.
- Repeat back; summarize – Something like, “Let me play what I’ve heard back to you to make sure I’ve captured it correctly.” There is always the chance that you’re drawing the wrong conclusions based on what you thought you heard.
- Thank the customer for taking the time to explain it to you.
That wise man I mentioned at the beginning? One of the great interviewers of last 20 years: Larry King.