(NOTE: This article is written specifically for salespeople and framed in that discussion. However, there is a strong application to everyday relationships, and one should read with the idea of applying this principle in any situation. Got kids? Pay special attention!)
This last week I was watching a video shop from an outstanding salesperson in Charlotte, NC. Lorna Wilkinson has a smooth and caring style that is most becoming to prospects. She is the type of person, it seems, with whom you would be quite comfortable sharing your fears and concerns.
Lorna does not exude high energy; hers is far from a Richard Simmons approach to a conversation. But there is a positive energy that draws people in. And there was…something else. As I watched the shop I was having a difficult time putting my finger on precisely what made Lorna so effective. It wasn’t just her ability to connect or her warm personality, though these traits shown through in abundance. It was deeper than that.
In watching the shop for the third time the light bulb went on. It was her unique style of listening. I have to be careful about not labeling this merely as “good listening skills”; that would not do her justice. Hers was a deeper skill. She didn’t just listen – she finished listening. Lorna took in what the customer had to say and she allowed the customer to say it fully.
Immediately I found myself applying that lesson to my own life, both as a trainer and a sales professional but also as a father, husband, friend, etc. Here’s my problem: while you’re finishing up with what you’re saying to me, I’m formulating what I will say or ask next. I listen, but I do not always finish listening.
I think of how Stephen Covey describes this in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He says these profound words (particularly applicable to salespeople): “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to respond.” Guilty, as charged.
Does this speak to you in any way? Do you struggle not with listening but with finishing your listening? I wonder how many gems there are that we are missing. I wonder what our customers are trying to tell us, even between the lines, that will help define the sales process for this particular prospect.
I would love to hear your honest feedback on this subject. Is it just me, or do others struggle in this area? And if you struggle, might you consider taking one conversation in the next hour and really focus on listening fully and completely. Letting the customer (or friend or child or spouse) actually finish what they are saying so you can really take it in before you move on to your next point.
I’ll be curious about your thoughts, so blog away in the space below. Then go out and change someone’s world!