By: Alex Hamwi
Has this ever happened to you? You are speaking with someone. You finish speaking and the other person responds to what you said. As the other person finishes what they’re saying, you realize that they have been talking for the last two or three minutes, but you didn’t really hear anything they said. This is a situation a lot of people find themselves in. This happens because human beings are hard-wired to be selfish, a survival artifact from our caveman days. We take care of our needs first, before we take care of the needs of others to ensure our own survival. What that leaves us within our current age is the fact that we instinctively think of ourselves first, before other people. So when someone is talking, half of our brain is listening to what the other person is saying and the other half is formulating what we are going to say next. This can cause us to miss critical information that can be gleaned through communication. While this can be a big problem in most communication settings, it can be the kiss of death for a salesperson-customer relationship. Short of an outright service failure, nothing will cause a customer to seek a different supplier faster than the feeling that the salesperson is not listening to them or is not interested in their needs.
By simply training and instructing your salespeople to behave in this manner and practice adaptive selling, you almost behaviorally force them to listen — otherwise they won’t be able to hear, process and repeat key concerns back to the customer. A variety of active listening training techniques, exercises and tips are available on the internet to help salespeople become better active listeners. Obviously, this change won’t happen overnight. There are no silver bullets in sales. But, with repetition, practice and time, you will start to see this manner of communication become more natural for your sales force. The salespeople who really take to it will see it start to permeate their everyday communication with friends, family and co-workers. There is one additional benefit to your sales force using active listening. Your customers will know that your salesperson is listening to them and trying to understand their needs. Having a sales force that really listens is good. Having a customer base that knows your sales force really listens is even better.
Alex Hamwi is an associate professor of marketing at Missouri State University. Hamwi specializes in sales and sales management issues. His research has been published in several major academic journals, including the Journal of Selling and the Journal of Sales and Sales Management.
This article appeared in the October 28, 2017 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here