It’s a simple fact – too many sales people talk too much and listen too little.
While it may come as no surprise to buyers and decision-makers, it’s a concept regularly rejected by sellers, who most often consider themselves to be good communicators. Yet the “terrible too’s” are common among sales people, and can sabotage a sales effort in a number of ways.
To begin with, talking too much often alienates other people. We have all experienced annoying situations in which someone talks so much we can’t get a word in – to agree or disagree!
Too much talking can also send some very undesirable implied messages to those we “speak at,” such as:
- You’re not important
- I don’t care what you think
- I don’t have time to listen to you
- My opinion is all that matters
But in selling situations there is an added risk. When a sales person places too much focus on what he or she is saying or planning to say next, their ability to listen is compromised. When sales people fail to listen, there’s a good chance they will be “talking” about the wrong things – things that customers or prospects do not prioritize or value.
So not only do we jeopardize our relationship with potential buyers if we talk too much, but we’re also likely to misunderstand their needs, miss buying signals and key interests, fail to recognize objections and – even worse – fail to earn their respect.
The first step towards a more balanced communication approach is to avoid making sales “pitches” and instead engage others into selling conversations in which a more even exchange of information takes place.
Set a target “talk/listen” ratio (T/L) before sales calls or conversations, and make a concerted effort to stick to it. As a rule-of-thumb, the ratio should never involve talking more than half the time. Listen carefully and take notes; pay attention to and assess each customer’s communication style, knowledge level, priorities, concerns, interests and true needs.
Making regular use of these notes as post-meeting scorecards is also a good way to monitor progress and improve technique.
If nothing else, avoiding the “terrible too’s” might result in being thought of as a better conversationalist, as those perceived as being more interested in others are frequently considered to be more interesting!
Ultimately, “talk less and listen more” is a good selling strategy.
Maybe Calvin Coolidge summed it up best when he said, “No man ever listened himself out of a job!”