Effective salespeople have always been good listeners. But with today’s information overload, the art of listening has exploded in a way that requires salespeople to be able to monitor and filter what is being said, shared, written and reviewed, and also to identify what an opportunity looks and sounds like through the chaos.
Today’s salesperson must develop listening skills and use monitoring tools that allow them to stay in tune and add insight to the information clients, prospects, and competitors are sharing.
Online tools like Trackur are a powerful way to enable your listening routines, but you’ve also got to develop the human skill necessary to make sense of what you listening to.
What follows is a “course” in that application of what some might call perceptive listening.
Most people are born with the ability to hear and, over time, be able to interpret what they’re hearing. Somewhere along the way, though, we get so consciously competent at hearing that we think we don’t need to listen anymore. You’ve probably heard someone call another person “hard of hearing.” Most of us become “hard of listening” before our actual hearing ever begins to lose strength.
You’ll find many books on sales that cover the topic of listening, and more specifically, active listening, but there is a form of listening beyond active listening that requires more skill—and returns even more value.
When we listen perceptively to what our prospects, customers, staff, and community members are saying, we can more fully and accurately appreciate what they need. Everyone should work at developing their ability to listen perceptively.
What is Perceptive Listening?
People that teach this sort of thing might say there are many forms of listening:
- Passive listening: when you act like we’re listening to a prospect, but you’re really just waiting for your turn to speak.
- Selective listening: when you’re discussing a problem with a prospect and looking for an opening to pitch yourself.
- Active listening: when you’re listening carefully to someone and reacting only to the words being said.
- Perceptive listening: when you hear and interpret the words as they’re said, but also consider what the person isn’t saying, what they might really be thinking, and how they are acting while they speak.
Perceptive listening the most complex type of listening because it requires you to be totally focused, completely mindful and, well, perceptive, of the conversation, both spoken and unspoken. Perceptive listening reveals things that a distracted or even active conversation wouldn’t reveal.
Perceptive listening is how you can tell when a prospect says they’re not ready to buy, but what they are really saying is they don’t understand the benefits of what you’re offering. Perceptive listening is how you draw out what a prospect or customer is truly passionate about. It allows you to see their goals and objectives and maps out how you can help them manage and move toward achieving those goals.
Here are three exercises that will help you build your level of perceptive listening. Bring these exercises to the forefront in everything you do.
Listening to a Client
Make a list of five clients you respect and would like to understand better. Schedule a time to sit down with them, in person preferably, and ask them the following three questions. Give their answers your full focus and pay close attention to how they answer, including their choice of words and body language.
- What’s the one thing you love about what our company does?
- If you referred us to a friend, what would you say about us?
- What’s the biggest challenge you face in your business right now?
Listening to a Team Member
Set a time to speak with someone you work with or have any professional relationship that you would like to develop further. Ask them the following questions:
- What’s the one thing you love most about coming to work here?
- If you referred our company to a friend, what would you say?
- What’s the biggest challenge you have in meeting your goals right now?
Listening to Yourself
This might be the toughest exercise. Sit down and ask these questions of yourself, paying attention to how you feel about the answers. You aren’t looking for right or wrong answers here, just honest answers.
- What’s the one thing you love most about what you do?
- Why do you really do what you do?
- If you could do anything you wanted, would this be it?
Building your perceptive listening skills will help you help your potential clients and current customers better. You will be able to help them make sense of the overload of information that is present in today’s society. When you help them do this, they will be able to see the value of your products and services more clearly. In turn, you will also be building trust as they see that you truly understand their needs and objectives.
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. His latest book, Duct Tape Selling – Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar is available online and in bookstores May 15.