Talk or Listen

I recently overheard my four-year-old granddaughter tell my wife that “I’m going to talk my mom into going to the doughnut shop today”.  I asked young Agnes what it meant to ‘talk someone into something’ and her quick retort was “it’s when you talk and talk until they say yes”.

That sales strategy works when you are four and you are working over parents and grandparents… but Agnes will learn at some point that it is not a long-term solution.

There is a stereotype that the best salesmen have the “gift of gab” or “can sell sand in the desert” by talking and talking until the beleaguered potential customer finally says yes.

But in the adult world, the most effective salespeople aren’t the ones who talk the most… they’re the ones who listen the best.

At Accenture, we often pitched big deals in teams and throughout my career I noticed a consistent pattern. When we’d be meeting with a team from a prospective client, the members of our team who tried to dominate the conversation eventually alienated the client.  On the other hand, the ones who quietly asked insightful questions, listened intently to how the clients answered and then tuned our sales pitch to emphasize the features we were selling that resonated with client needs had a much different effect. By the end of the meeting, all of the clients’ attention was focused on the ‘listeners’.

When you’re selling, be sure to listen at least twice as much as you talk.  When you’re buying, pay close attention to whether the sales rep is truly trying to understand and meet your needs or is just pushing to close the sale so they can move on to their next target.  If a supplier doesn’t listen to you before you buy, they are extremely unlikely to be attentive to your needs after you buy.

Got some insights to share on this?  Please do… I’ll listen.


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