What is the difference between listening and hearing? While hearing is required to listen we HEAR many things in the background as we are engaged in the act of LISTENING. My wife will testify to that one from trying to have a conversation with me during a football game. Hearing is not the same as listening and listening is not the same as ACTIVE LISTENING.
Too often in sales we hear but we don’t listen. For more on the subject check out the May 2014 Sandler Brief on the subject. Salespeople can be guilty of “listening to win”, listening for opportunity”, “listening for the other person to stop talking”, or just nodding the head as they think of what they are going to say next. We’ve all done it before but it is not a productive way to sell.
Selling is much more like being a detective than it is like being a great public speaker. To a person, the most successful sellers I know don’t go into a sales call listening for anything beyond a thorough understanding of the situation.
I often use role play exercises straight from the world of Improv Theatre in our President’s Club sessions on the subject of active listening. Think about it, an improvisational actor has no idea where their partner is going with a scene and must listen actively until their partner stops speaking. This forces them to think of what they are going to say next in the silence after their partner has stopped talking. It is estimated that the average adult spends at least 40% of the time someone is speaking thinking of what they will say next instead of actively listening.
The next time you are on a sales call keep a detective mindset and then apply the Improv discipline to wait until the other party stops speaking to think of what to say. It might feel a little weird but I think you will be impressed with the results.