The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast
The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast

Episode · 1 month ago

Active Listening in Sales Conversations

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We often focus on asking two-sided, open-ended discovery questions to learn about prospective customers. However, there is little value in asking these questions if you are unable to listen effectively. How can you improve your listening in sales conversations? Force Management Facilitator Marty Mercer joins us to share insight on how to follow up great questions with active listening.

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The PREP in the homework and the research you do ahead of time is what makes the call go well and allows you to listen. You're listening to the audible ready podcast, the show that helps you and your team's sell more faster. Will feat your sales leader sharing their best insights on how to create a sales engine that helps you fuel repeatable revenue growth, presented by the team at force management, a leader in BTB sales effectiveness. Let's get started. Hello, I'm Rachel Club Miller and welcome to the audible ready sales podcast. Thank you for listening, and that is her topic today, listening. Our Own Marty Mercer joins me to talk about great listening in our sales conversations him. Mardy, Hey, Rachel, how you doing? Thanks for having me back. Yeah, we're excited to have you, especially on this topic. Yeah, so it was interesting when I suggested this, this concept of listening came up. I was watching a Ted talk from a musician of all things, and he had interviewed a bunch of famous musicians about how to get their audiences to listen to their music the way they hear the music when they wrote it. And as he did these interviews his whole perspective change because he realized that he needed to listen better to the people he was interviewing. So it's like listening about listening. And so what started about listening to music turned into why we need to listen better in our conversations. And so I started thinking about up selling discovery questions and listening and I realize we spent a lot of time focus on writing great questions, open ended questions, to sided questions. But the best questions in the world are going to have no impact if we're not truly, actively intentionally listening to what our prospects are saying. So it's a two sided coin. Ask a great question, but then you got to be a great listener, right, because also you can't ask a great second question...

...if you don't listen to the answer. Yeah, the first question bombs there. You go right, right. So I'd like to have maybe levels at Marty and talk a little bit about why you think reps struggle with listening. Yeah, and it's these are just things that I've observed, and this first one is actually what I hear from our customers almost every single time we do training with them. Is that what I hear is is that the sellers either know the answer to the question before they ask it or they're pretty sure they know the answer before they ask it. They tell me that they are assuming that they know the answer, so that when they ask the question they're not actively listening. You're not intentionally listening because what they think they're going to hear is what they've already concluded. And mean when you think about that, you go with that sounds kind of arrogant. You know, I know the answer. But their challenges. They talk to people all the time, their experts and what they sell, and over time they begin to be experts in the problems their customers have and what you've done this like a hundred times, you begin to hear many of the same answers and so if you're not aware of this, you ask the question, you kind of listen because you're pretty sure you know what they're going to say. Now hearing that from our customers. The second reason is an interesting concept from several years ago. There's a book by the Heath Brothers called made to stick and I talked about this idea with that customers. All the time they refer to a problem as the burden of knowledge. So they say, the seller is like carrying this large sack with everything they know about their pride and the customer and their problems and how they can solve their problems. But it's very heavy. It's so heavy they thing to dump out everything from the sack on to the prospect. So what happens? We ask a questions. The sack is heavy, gets weigh is down and we just can't wait to dump everything out. So we asked the question. It's weighing is down, we give a little moment of a listen and then we go yeah, we hear that a lot. Let me tell you how he fixed that problem. And then we talked for ten minutes. So...

I think that those two things are pretty common traps, if you will, to fall into. Yeah, and if you've ever been a buyer of a solution, you know how that feels on the other ends. Like I know because I'm in marketing. I mean how many marketing selfware solutions are there out there? But I know when I hit a trigger with something I said, because they're like so eager, so excited, they're dumping the sacks just like, just like you said, Marty. But you know, you know why it happens. You can see we're we want the call to go so great. Well, we need pipeline, we need deals. were so focused on saying the right thing. I mean it comes from a good place, but we can't say the right thing if we don't listen. And we want to pay attention to listening, but specifically how we listen. So let's just talk about some things we can do a sales people's to set us up for success, starting with the basics. What am I doing when I'm executing the call home? I'm making suure I'm set up to listen. Well, great question, but interestingly, my perspective, my answer is not what you're doing when you execute the call is what you did yesterday. Okay, what you did an hour before the call, and I know that sounds easy, but I really believe that the issue is the prep, in the homework and the research you do ahead of time is what makes the call go well and allows you to listen. Most people get into happit kind of wigging it and they're not intentional about the homework in the prep and they don't think me. Rather, they are thinking like a seller instead of thinking like some of the works. For that company for that prospect. So the first step is homework prep research. Second again, a lot of sellers from I tell them this, they kind of roll their eyes right out. Your questions in advance on a piece of paper or on a word doctus on your screen, however you want to do it. Don't say, Oh, I've been doing this a long time, I know all the questions right amount. So it's very specific to that company and that and that prospect. Here's what happens when you're writing down. Now you have a plan, have a flow of how the call she go.

That way, when you're speaking to the prospect can be very intentional and listening to them. Another thing take notes. A lot of people say, Oh, I don't want to take notes because it interrupts the call or maybe looks like I don't know what I'm doing or the customer might have a weird reaction. I think it's a complete opposite. Take notes. Tell them you're going to take some notes. That way, when you're taking notes there's a little bit of a pause in the conversation. Don't worry about that because in most cases that pause allows the prospect to say, Oh, yeah, here's one other things. Talk about that. So, in a crazy way, the pause is actually the best question, a non question that generates a deeper level answer in conversation. The last tip is really a mindset kind of the thing, and as I was thinking about this podcast I thought, how do we get our mindset around us in the right way? It's not a selling event. Think of it as a conversation. Almost is if you were therapist in the prospect was a patient. Think about the best therapist are genuinely interested in you and your issues. They ask questions and then they become silent waiting for you to respond. They give their patients plenty of time to formulate an answer and respond. So I think if we take that kind of mindset, it's not a sales event, it's a conversation. kind of trick your mind to thinking you're a therapist, they're the patient. Think those are some things that will help you be much more in pensial in your in your conversations. Yeah, I don't I don't mind that therapist analogy. I know if I've been on a great discovery call and I'm a prospect, it does feel like therapy. Yeah, I'm telling them all my challenge. Yes, yes, exactly right. Let me tell better thing. Well, those are those are great, three great things that we can do. And even if you are listening to Marty speak and you're like, yes, I know that, but how many times are you really consciously doing that prep before our sales, sales...

...called? Because being conscious about it really really makes the difference. And you know why. You're talking about about the prep and having places to go with great with great questions. At the same time, you don't want to over prep your calls. So you can't be flexible based on the conversation. This goes to the therapist, patient and analogy. You want to prep it away that accounts for what the other person is going to say. You have, you need to have a room in the prep. Maybe that's yes, yeah, it's a great way of saying it. In a lot of times, our customers is all. I don't want to script. We're not talking about a script. Think about a script is something you memorize as an actor and you know what the other actors going to say in response because it's a script. All right, that's not what we're talking about. So what I use the word is is a prep, is a guide. So I mentioned earlier. Right out your questions in advance, but also put them in a logical flow. They can carry the conversation in a logical manner. Instead of kind of jumping from idea to idea, you start jumping from idea to idea in the prospect. It's kind of an uneasy feeling. But you got to be prepared that the answer you here may not be exactly what you thought. You may make you have to deviate to some other topics. So your prep needs to be along the lines of option a, option be, option see. You don't care what direction it goes because you're ready to go. And so what you ask any of those questions, they give you different answer. They may be good. OPTION BE, you go to option see, and when you do that, they they get the feelings you're actively listening to the into the conversation. Then you're pivoting in a natural, easygoing way. If you're not actively listening, it will be very apparent very quickly to the prospect because you got the script and you're going to ask these questions because you wrote these questions. Are Like your children. I got to ask every one of these questions because I love them all. And when you get like that, it just shut down mentally and then that's not a positive conversation. Right. And...

...and you don't have to do everything in one call. We talk about it. This is a process, right. Yes, also therapy session. So just well, well, that's a great point, which is you're not going to close the deal on that call. Hmmm, just not. And so let's just be prepared for multiple conversations with multiple people, as you said, multiple therapy sessions. Yes, Thatt yourself up for success moving forward. So you're in the conversation. It's about listening to yours, listening yourself health. We want to make sure I'm I want to make sure I'm doing a great job listening so I can continue the conversation in a great way set myself up for success as I execute all these conversations along the sales process. But I want to make sure the other person knows that I'm listening, that I am hearing them, I'm not doing my script. So talk a little bit about how we can make sure that that happens. Yep. So how do we? How do we make sure they get that we're listening, that we're aborting? So the first thing I mentioned it take notes, you're being deliberate and documenting what they're saying. They see you doing that, they go they're listening, they're taking those notes. Secondly, not everything they say will be clear. Not Everything that they say will you understand? Every now that ask them to clarify what they just said. If it's not clear, you're not understanding it. So think about like this. It's not question answer, question answer, it's question conversation, question conversation. Third every so often summarize which you've heard. Hey, Mr Mrs Prospect, before we move on to this other topic we said we wanted to chat about. Let me summarize what we just talked about the last few minutes and then when you're done with that, you got to ask one more question. Hey, did I miss anything? Anything else you want to add? Give them that option to be add in more to the conversation. Fourth idea nonverbal cues. Look them in the eye. A lot of people, on zoom especially, they feel awkward about looking them in the eye. If you were facetoface, you'd be looking them in the...

I you'd be across a table from them. So do the same thing on zoom. Look them in the eye. I don't stare. Don't make them uncomfortable, but remember you're taking notes, and so that's when you divert your eyes to take your notes. You're not constantly staring at them. The experts say to use what they called the fifty seventy rule. Maintain eye contact about half the time you're speaking, but about seventy percent of the time when you're listening. So if the more they talk, by the way, that's going to be a better conversation, and you're spending about seventy percent of the time looking them in the eye. But every now then you're going to jot your notes, you're going to divert your eyes. That's okay, that's you know, that's this going to make it more comfortable. And then, lastly, mirror their body language. I would argue it's maybe even a little bit of easier to keep track of that on zoom, then facetoface and zoom is a going away. So if they smile, you smile, if they chuckle, you chuckle. Nod your head. You don't have to say you know, it's not all, but saying something, the physical movement of nodding your head, they get that you're listening to them. Yeah, I so appreciate a head nod on a zoom call when you when you're like presenting in front of, towarding people, you're like, okay, Somebody's listening to me, because they're all on mute. They're trying to be polite, right, but I appreciate the head nod. The other thing, I don't know. You probably do this, Marty, because you're the expert, but what I what really helps me on zoom is too high. I had the self view. Or you can do it on teams like turn. I mean you're you're so projecting video, but you're not seeing that because inevitably I just like I'm looking at my my own video and not the other person's. Yeah, and there's a lot of research now the last couple of years about zoom and that people stare at themselves too much. So yeah, hide yourself with in my situation, I have a fair number of people that are on the zoom call, so I have enough faces that I'm looking at. So a couple things, and not everybody can do this, but as the pandemic went along, I bought...

...a forty three inch monitor. I'm looking at you right now in a forty three inch monitors. So the faces are big, even with forty five on a screen. My pictures on there somewhere. But what I do is, maybe a lot of people don't know this, when the person who is speaking speaks, a little yellow box goes around. The yellow line goes around their box. I immediately dragged them to the top of my monitor, right under my camera, and I'm staring at them. And so I'm having a direct conversation with whoever's asking me that question. I get them to clarify the questions and I'm giving them a response. I'm not looking at anybody else. I might look at it any of their peers, I'm not looking at the ever, to be honest, I'm looking straight at them and we're having a direct one on one conversation. And every time somebody else comes along, I find them and even if it's on a second or third F out. So Hey, wait a minute, Rachel, let me find your face and I drag it to the top. I didn't know that for a while on zoom and maybe a lot of people don't. But that way I'm having, I'm always having a one on one conver station with someone speaking right because there is that nuance when you're doing these virtual calls, like you might be looking at the person, but you have to look at the camera so the other person feels like you're looking at them. So moving that box can that can help. I wanted to also bring up one more point, Marty, when you were talking about notes and making sure you're writing down notes and looking and nodding, but making sure you are capturing what they what they said. That can just really help. We talked about setting yourself up for success if you are able to take good notes one it helps you clarify what they said, summarize. It gives you time in the conversation to make sure you have great notes. That follow up email after that call is so much easier. It's if you DIS A it's a piece of cake. And so what we repeatedly tell everybody, all of our customers, is even though you summarize maybe multiple times in a conversation, depending on how long that call lasts, at the end of the call we want you to summarize how that conversation and we go. We...

...talked about the mantra. You may not know all the parts of the mantra by the time that first call gets done, but let me. Hey, Rachel, let's just walk through everything that we've talked about over the last twenty or thirty minutes. What I heard you say is and then in big and big chunks. You've got to say everything in big chokes. You repeat that back that I miss anything, anything. IUT You want to add great thanks to the call. Soon as the call is over, this is what I tell our customers. Soon as that call is over, you go to email and you just put it in an email us, a standard email temple. That's what our sellers do and you've summarized it. It's easy. Boom Boo, boom, boo, boom. They're going to say, holy cow, that only did they not verb not only did they verbalize the summary. I just got in my inbox the summary and the email, and a lot of people will say, well, you know, I'm so busy. Here's what I think. You have no idea who they're sending that email to. Inside of their company. They're beginning to socialize it around without you even knowing, and your competition isn't doing that. You just now got a leg up because now they're spreading the word of your conversation, your company and your solution set and that isn't happening with the competition. So that verbal summary and in that email summary Super important. If you don't take notes, now it's in your head, you get something. Yeah, we've all been there and then we're asking other people on the call like hey, did you what did he say or what did she say? And I appreciate it to if I'm engaging with a vendor, those follow up emails are so helpful for me too, because now I have a list of what we discussed, the specific specificities of the conversation. And if you're talking to multiple vendors about a solution, if I have a good road map with the conversation from one and not the other, I just want to work more with that person who's WHO's showing their listening to me and providing a tool for us to have future conversations. I tell our customers, if the only reason in you with is because you ask the best...

...questions and you listen to the best who cares? You won? But I think that that experience for the buyer, for the prospect, has such a huge, positive, overwhelming impact that you just now separated yourself from the competition without even adding on the fact that your solution is better. It's a double whammy. Right, right, absolutely, absolutely, but Cheez, Marty, this has been a fruitful conversation. I hope I have showed that I have been listening to you very well, you have, and I've been watching you and I've been nodding and chuckling, and so we both been trying to do our best at actively intentionally listened on this right. Pride is what we preach. So, as we wrap it up, give us a final thought, give us a great takeaway. Far Listeners, for sure. So here's here's my final thought. If we don't prep well and we don't have a specific guide for a specific conversation, conversation, we're always in what I would call scramble mode in our head during the call. If we're a mental scramble mode, we're barely listening, maybe almost not listening. Now, if we have a call guide with multiple options, we avoid scramble mode because it doesn't matter what direction the call goes in, we're prepared to handle it. When we avoid scramble mode, we could actively intentionally listen. We learn, customer learns and I believe they learn more about their own situation simply be because we actively listen. That's great, but thank you for the conversation, Marty. You're welcome all right, and thank you to all of you for listening. I hope you are actively listening to all of Marty's tups today. Appreciate you joining us on the audible ready sales podcast. At force management, we're focused on transforming sales organizations into elite teams. Are Proven methodologies deliver programs that build company alignment and fuel repeatable revenue growth. Give your teams the ability to execute the...

...growth strategy at the point of sale. Our strength is our experience. The proof is in our results. Let's get started. Visit US at force MANAGEMENTCOM. You've been listening to the audible ready podcast. To not miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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