26 February 2009

The MOST Important, Least Understand Sales and Marketing Skill

There is a skill..actually a set of skills..that often gets neglected in all the trainings, systems, webinars, seminars, etc...Can you guess what it is? This skill is what makes decent sales people become great ones. It is the key to giving value and the most essential aspect of developing relationships. It has nothing to do with product knowlege or blogs, forums or PPC. You are either really curious now..or you've guessed it.

The skill is LISTENING. Real listening is very different than just hearing what a person is saying. Real listening is active, it is engaged..but it is not necessarily engaged in the expected manner of most conversations in our society. Start paying attention when you are speaking with someone. See how often you are just LISTENING compared to how often you are already thinking about what you are going to say next, while the other person is still talking. True listening can be called "active listening" or "reflective listening".

Certain people are trained to listen in the manner. Psychotherapists are a great example, as are some doctors, social workers and others in the helping professions. Really great business coaches and sales people also know and use this skill of active listening. Here is how it works:

You focus all your attention on what the other person is saying. Instead of approaching a conversation ready to impart your own agenda, you enter into it ready to go along with your client's or prospect's agenda. As they speak you reflect back to them what you heard them say. You reframe or restate the content of what they said..thus letting them know that they are being heard and allowing them to correct any misinterpretations on your part. As you do this it will become obvious to you, their needs, their problems, their interests, etc....

It is by approaching conversations like this that you glean the most important kinds of information from the person you are speaking with. People love to be truly heard. Often the best relationship building technique is listening. You'll be amazed how much people will be attracted to you if you listen to them with an open mind and an open heart. It takes some practice to do this well. In marriage therapy couples often spend a few weeks just practicing this as a skill set, before using it to have an in depth conversation about their real issues. (Sometimes listening to each other is the real issue and they can move on once they learn this skill).

Before going out and trying this with your prospects, practice with your friends and family. Pick a really easy topic. Ask the other person to speak for two minutes about her favorite food and why she likes it. When the two minutes are up it's your turn. Start with: "So, what I heard you say is.____" And then, "It seems that you like__________ because________________. " After a few rounds of this you'll get the hang of it. When conversing in the business world, you can do this same thing. You can also summarize the last few paragraphs and add.."Am I hearing you correctly?"

This is the most powerful relationship building skill that there is. It requires no special tools or aptitudes. Just the desire to truly connect with another and hear what they have to say.

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