While I'm in the early stages of my career (turning 27 in July), I've been around the block enough times to understand that the ability to listen is one of the most critical elements of a successful relationship.
Sure, it's something that any salesperson learns during "Sales 101" class but in reality it isn't as readily practiced as one would hope. The average person can think back to a situation where they encountered a salesperson that seemed uninterested in listening to their requirements, instead pushing the hottest product (the one that your immediate, extended and twice removed family members own) or the one that makes them the most commission (with a little practice, you learn to look for the dollar sign syndrome that is evident through a salespersons eyes).
This, right here, is what can kill the entire customer experience before it starts.
It doesn't matter whether or not your company, product or service is the best thing since the invention of Facebook, if a potential client or even an existing client perceives that you really aren't engaged and appear intent on pushing only your agenda, they are quite likely to depart for a competitor. The golden rule for listening is the 80/20 rule; listen intently to your client 80% of the time and speak 20% of the time. Some of the best people in sales are the ones that listen and speak reflectively, demonstrating interest and insight into solving the needs of their clients.
We operate in a unique market, as my colleague explained in his post last week about relationships. While Manitoba residents are stereotyped as being unusually value conscious, those who are successful in doing business learn quickly that those clients can be won over and realize the value of your solutions if you take just a bit of time to show that you care. I’ve been complimented over my years in B2C and B2B sales by a variety of clients who appreciated my taking the time to listen to them whether it was regarding a purchase or a billing problem. One even expressed his gratitude with a high five and a crisp $20 bill.
Moments like that remind me why I got into sales in the first place.
One of the most interesting aspects about working at Modern Earth is the number of people who come up to me at networking events (BNI for example), tradeshows and other functions to tell me that they or someone they know used our services and how keen we were to actually listen to their needs and respond intelligently. In world of increasingly automated communication, many feel as if the personal touch of doing business has become something of a lost art. To some extent I agree and through our own processes for each project, be it online marketing or e-commerce development, we’ve set ourselves apart by exhibiting that personal touch.
It’s how we’ve existed for 13 years and our future looks very bright.