Chapter One: Listen First: It's the Most Important Step
Sales. It’s the ultimate measure of success in any business. Yet there is a single distinction between a good salesperson and a bad salesperson that just about everyone can agree on—the ability to listen. The same thing can be said for managers, customer service personnel or C-suite executives. Those that are most successful are not just doers, they’re great listeners.
When you’re trying to build relationships, listening is the first skill you need to master, and the person you’re talking to right now is your first priority. There’s nothing wrong with a high level of confidence in yourself, your brand and your business, but it always needs to be tempered by an understanding that listening is the key to the whole process.
Unfortunately, none of us practices the art of listening enough. It’s not something that we’re taught in elementary school (although I think it should be!). We usually learn it by trial and error—mostly error—and yet it’s the single most fundamental skill humans need in order to build and maintain relationships. When we converse with people face-to-face, we not only listen to what they’re saying, we also learn to catch subtle social cues. Those who are observant enough can see when someone’s body language suggests that they’re losing interest, or that the expression on their face indicates confusion.
Humans have an inherent need to be heard and to have their feelings validated, and you don’t have to go far to find examples of what happens in sales when listening doesn’t happen.
Think about car shopping for a moment. Let’s say you walk into a dealership with a make in mind, but with some questions about the different models available. How can the salesperson win you over, and, just as importantly, what might they do that would turn you off immediately? No matter how well the salesperson knows their brand and how good their intentions, a one-sided monologue is likely to send you scurrying for the door. You don’t want to ask a question about engine specs only to receive an answer about this month’s red hot payment deals (or no answer at all), yet we’ve all been victims of this kind of lazy salesmanship.
It’s a simple concept. If you call, you want someone to answer. If you ask a question that applies to your unique circumstances, you don’t want a boilerplate response. We recognize and act on this type of thing all the time in face-to-face settings. However, the standard for digital interaction has been lowered dramatically in comparison. Maybe it’s easier to miss without the benefit of body language and personal interaction, or maybe it seems easier to manage your digital presence at arm’s length than to truly dig in and get involved. In either case, the easier way is not the better way. Social isn’t magic, and success takes effort. The key is to learn digital listening skills and use those skills to relate better with individuals.