How to Listen

The question was asked:  “How do you know which sales technique to use on prospective customers?”

My answer:  “Forget about sales techniques.  Learn how to listen.”

“God gave us two ears and only one mouth,” I was told as a child, meaning “You should listen twice as much as you talk.”

But all the listening in the world doesn’t do any good unless you understand what the speaker is saying.

Sales is an interesting area to be in, because most people perceive sales people to do a lot of fast-talking, ‘convincing’, and smooth-talking.  Think of Harold Hill in The Music Man.

The reality is that really good sales people know how to listen.  They listen to what their customer is saying, and by practicing good listening skills, manage to sell what the customer wants to buy.  It works out to be a win/win. The customer gets what they’re looking for, and the salesperson makes a sale.

I have plenty of examples of how NOT to listen, mainly based on my experiences (as a female) shopping for a company vehicle, while accompanied by my husband. In these situations my husband was along to see if he would fit into the vehicle. He’s a big man, and a lot of vehicles simply do not accommodate his mass.

But I’m the one buying the vehicle.  I’m making the decision, writing the cheque, doing all the driving of said vehicle.

The typical scenario is we walk into a car show room, a salesperson approaches us, and asks my husband the usual ‘opening question’.  (The opening question varies by which sales technique is in vogue that year.) But it is unfailingly directed at my husband.  The response from my husband is always “You should talk to my wife.  She’s the one buying.”  At which point he usually stops talking. (He’s a taciturn man.)

Now, anyone who is really listening would have heard “Talk to the woman,” and would, ideally, direct their next query at me.

People who ‘fail to listen’ would ask my husband “Oh, what kind of a vehicle is your wife looking for?”  (Or, in one eyebrow raising instance, asked “What colour car would your wife like?”  Even though I was standing RIGHT THERE.)

Now, over the years I’ve bought a lot of vehicles, and got really tired of this, so, generally speaking, if the salesperson didn’t clue in that they should be talking to me after 30 seconds or a minute, we would simply leave the dealership.  (I have this really bad attitude:  I don’t reward stupidity.)

(No doubt the sales person would console themselves with the thought “Well, they weren’t really going to buy anything anyway.”  “Not from you,” would be my rebuttal.)

The last vehicle I bought, I walked into the dealership with my husband, the approach was made and the standard response given, at which point the salesman directed his questions to me.  He knew how to listen.   He also pointed out the features I said I was looking for in a vehicle.  The sale was made that day.  Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?



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