I get asked for sales advice. A lot. It’s an occupational hazard.
So you would think I’d have a catchy sales-guru-style slogan ready to go, such as, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”
But, actually, the one piece of advice I constantly give to salespeople all around the world finds its origin in the study of interpersonal communication. After all, effective selling depends upon strong connection skills.
The advice comes from the late Stephen Covey in his classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey points out that, “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand – they listen with the intent to respond.”
So, let me pause from doling out advice here to ask a pretty direct question…is that you?
Do you wait for the customer to stop talking just so you can start? Do you divert your attention away from your prospect to think about your product? Or do you take the time to truly and deeply connect with your customers’ story?
The direct application of this concept (both in sales and in life) revolves around a critical life skill: childlike curiosity.
Most salespeople are just not curious enough about the lives of prospects and customers they encounter. How do I know? Because I am guilty of it myself.
I tend to get self-absorbed with my own problems, concerns, goals and dreams. And here’s the shameful part: this self-absorption precludes me from becoming deeply interested in the person I am talking to.
You see, everyone brings with them a story to tell. And those stories generally point you down the path of a successful sale.
The issue really comes down to one critical skill: the ability to ask good questions.
Curiosity demands questions (just ask any four year old child!). Curious people aren’t worried about being interesting. Curious people are interested.
Here is the single-most powerful phrase you can use to develop your curiosity skills:
“Tell me more about that.”
This simple request encourages people to go deeper. It gives them permission to open up. And it provides the basis of a deeper understanding.
“Tell me more about that.”
“Can I ask you to go a little deeper there?”
“Talk to me. I want to know more.”
Find a way to encourage the other person to share on a deeper level.
You are not going to find a deep understanding of your customer’s story on the surface level of a sales conversation. Even when you ask a direct question, the customer typically offers a shallow response (and in many cases, an inaccurate or incomplete response).
The follow-up questions – the “go deeper” questions – challenge the other person to share what’s really going on in their world.
You can take the two most disparate people on the planet and put them in the same room. As long as one of the two seeks to understand more than they seek to be understood, they will find common ground somewhere.
As a sales professional, it’s your job to seek understanding first.
Start practicing the principles of childlike curiosity and understanding. Take the time to find a genuine interest in the lives of your prospects and customers…and you will change their world!