No one wants what you sell. Honestly.
No one truly wants a coach, an interior designer or a VA. No one wants a yoga teacher, a photographer or a lawyer.
If you’ve been in business a while, you’ll have been told plenty of times that you should be selling a dream or a vision.
You don’t sell an interior design, you sell a dream of a home. You don’t sell legal contracts, you sell peace of mind.
But why is it so hard to do?
It’s because everyones dream is different.
It’s about understanding what someone’s dream is.
It’s about listening. Listening intently, actively, listening so that you can understand exactly what your client is telling you, even when they’re not using words.
And this is why it’s so hard.
Why listening is the no 1 skill you have to learn – and why your brain doesn’t like it
When you’re in a face-to-face sales meeting, it’s natural that you want to help someone understand how fantastic your service or product is, and how much it could solve their problem.
You might already have some great questions ready to help get the other person on your side. You might have some tried-and-tested images and visions to share. Maybe you’re already fantastic at presenting a dream solution.
But here’s where your brain is out to sabotage you. It’s almost impossible to have two focuses: presenting and listening.
And unless you know that what you’re saying is right for the other person, presenting your solution, no matter how well, is a stab in the dark.
Instead, if you want to know what the other person is really dreaming of, you have to find a way of giving them your real, genuine, total attention.
You need to be able to immerse yourself in what they’re saying to you.
You need to forget, for a time, what you want from them.
Why true, active listening, is an extraordinarily powerful tool in face-to-face selling
Firstly, it gives you access to someone’s inner world: what motivates them, what they truly want from a situation, what the dream solution would be that they’d pay almost anything for. And that gives you an enormous opportunity to tailor your services or products to that person and bring them on board as a passionate, loyal fan.
Secondly, it allows you to weed out the clients who will be nothing but trouble. It can be tempting to take on a client because they’re offering to pay you, even if you’re not fully comfortable with it. Those relationships are often the ones that go wrong, causing stress and tension further down the line. However, if you’ve listened intently, you’ll have heard and understood whether this person is going to want things, that ‘you can’t’ or ‘don’t want’ to provide. And that means you can say ‘no’, from a place of inner confidence.
Thirdly, it creates a unique rapport. For most people, being fully listened to is a rare and powerful experience. We highly value people who work in that way, whether they’re professionals or friends: consider how we respond to a doctor or a lawyer who really listens to us before providing advice, or a friend who takes the time to understand. If you can do the same thing, you’re immediately elevated to someone who is trustworthy and credible.
5 ways to make your listening skills the killer tool in your sales kit
Active listening isn’t just about the words someone else is saying. It’s about being aware of all the different messages that someone else is giving you, and being able to respond to them appropriately and authentically.
It’s not straightforward, especially when you’re nervous. But listening is a skill that you can get better at, in a very deliberate way.
Not sure where to start? Here are 5 ways to make your listening skills the thing that differentiates you from everyone else in your field – and that means more sales for you.
1. Write things down as you go
Take notes as someone is talking to you. It keeps you focused on them, and off your own agenda. Your notes will also be massively helpful if you’re going back to someone with a proposal at a later date. I’ve closed big deals a year after a first meeting, because my original detailed notes meant I could create an offer that I knew met someone’s practical and emotional objectives.
2. Observe someone’s energy
Most people aren’t aware of the way their own energy fluctuates with their emotional engagement, but it’s a very powerful clue once you start to notice it.
Watch how someone talks about what they want. They might be very articulate about what they need from a service or product, but if they don’t have any emotional engagement with it, you’ll see it in their body language, their tone of voice, and in low or average energy. But as soon as you hit an emotional resonance, everything changes. They’ll sit up more, their face and voice become more animated, they might talk faster or louder. Once you see that, you’ll know there’s something there to pick up on. No matter how insignificant the point might seem, it’s an area where you’re going to get real engagement. Pick up on it, explore what it means, and consider how your product or service could either support that emotion (if it’s a positive one), or help someone overcome a negative emotion.
3. Listen for analogies and images
Using someone’s own language creates a short-cut to engaging them fully. Listen closely for the exact words the other person is using. Do they want to ‘beat our competition’, perhaps using lots of sporting or military vocabulary, or to ‘shine in our industry’, maybe with images of light and positivity? If you can use those same ideas in talking about how you can help them, you’ll create a sense of familiarity and trust for the other person.
Metaphors can be another helpful clue to how they relate to the world. If someone starts comparing their problems to a particular football team, historical situation or even a simple picture, encourage them to go further with it; perhaps to explain the kind of dream solution they’re looking for. Even if you don’t understand the details, you’ll almost certainly get a better idea of what it is they’re really after, simply because they’re using an image that makes sense to them.
4. Be bold in clarifying what you’re hearing
A great way of actively listening, is to summarise back what you think you’re observing. You might say, ‘I’m picking up that what you’d really love is a solution that does this…am I right’?
If you’re right, you’re confirming to the other person that you’ve listened and understood. If you’ve misunderstood something, it gives them a chance to clarify things, which means that you improve your understanding, and you’re not relying on a wrong assumption.
This is a great discipline for keeping you focused on the other person, as you’re continually challenging yourself to summarise what you’ve understood.
5. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is an increased awareness of being in the present moment. It’s a skill that helps you to reduce or eliminate all the distractions in your brain, that keep you from focusing totally on what’s happening. In a sales meeting, that’s often the mental ‘chat’ or anxiety of your own sales message at a time when you should be focusing on what the other person is saying.
Learning to be mindful can take lots of forms. Meditation is a well-known approach (try a service such as www.headspace.com); but you can practice it through cooking, walking, exercise; anything where you practice being fully in the moment and not distracted. A few times a day, try taking a few minutes to notice intently everything around you: what you can see, feel or hear. The more frequently you do it, the more easily you’ll be able to use the skill in pressurised situations like sales meetings.
What you can do now to make active listening a habit
Although lots of sales skills are hard to practice outside a sales conversation, listening is one that you can develop easily.
To get started, simply choose one of the ideas above. Try to use it in all the conversations you have, no matter who they’re with. Keep doing it for several days, maybe a week, until it starts becoming easier, or even automatic. Then add another approach. If you find that’s too much, then reduce it to just one skill again, and keep doing that one for a bit longer.
Over a few weeks you should start finding that you’re listening more actively in all your conversations.
That means that next time you go into a sales conversation, you’ll no longer be selling what you do. Instead, you’ll be understanding what your client really wants, and authentically and convincingly letting them know how you can help them achieve it.
And that’s going to make you the person they choose to work with.
How could you apply this in your business? Is ‘listening well’ in your sales toolkit? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
You can find more great posts by Joanna here…
Photo Credit: Deathtostockphotos.com