As sales leaders, we coach reps to ask strong, impactful questions of customers and prospects. While that's a critically important skill, we often forget to devote equal time to developing the other side of the equation - listening to the answer.
We've all managed the rep who asks a question, then pays little attention to the customer's response. They're usually thinking about what they will say right after the customer finishes speaking. Once the customer pauses for a moment or takes a breath, this rep starts talking again immediately.
Top producing reps listen very effectively. They never interrupt, encouraging the customer to say more by asking follow-up questions. These salespeople know that what the customer says after they pause contains some of the most important information of the sales call.
Most people consider themselves good listeners. Few of us actually are. For the summer reading list, I am recommending books on the art of listening.
by Mark Goulston, M.D.
A Clinical Intervention psychiatrist and UCLA professor of psychiatry, Dr. Goulston wrote this concise but highly informative book on the art of hearing other people. Over 100,000 copies have sold. Using examples from all walks of life, he provides ideas, techniques, sample questions and tools to make improvements in this all important area.
The Lost Art of Listening
by Michael P. Nichols PhD
The Guilford Press (2009)
Considered by many to be an essential read, this book receives consistently strong customer reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.com. Dr. Nichols, a Professor of Psychology at the College of William and Mary, helps us understand why we do some of the things we do (like interrupting people) and offers practical techniques to help us improve. He tells us we have to learn to let others speak.
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most
by Douglas Stone Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen
Penguin Books (2010)
From the Harvard Negotiation Project, the group that authored Getting to Yes, this book has been on the New York Times Business Bestseller list. It serves as a practical, easy to follow guide for approaching tough discussions - instead of avoiding them - as many of us tend to do. I used this book with a client I coached and still practice some of the tactics we learned.
Listening as a Martial Art: Master Your Listening Skills for Success
by Cash Nickerson JD MBA
Cash Nickerson Media (2015)
Great leaders have strong listening skills, often speaking less frequently than anyone in the room. Nickerson puts forth that we'd all benefit from talking less and listening more. A JD, an MBA and an avid martial artist, Mr. Nickerson (President and Principal of PDS, Inc. a $400 million dollar engineering and IT staffing firm) shares what he's learned in business and in life. You don't have to be a martial arts expert to appreciate what he has to say about listening.
Sales is a challenging and competitive profession. Successful salespeople look for ways to set themselves apart from all the others. Encourage reps to distinguish themselves by being that rare, sincere listener. Listening demonstrates poise, gains trust and most importantly enables your salesperson to do their best to meet customer's needs.