It's so easy to fall into the trap. Maybe we just need a gentle nudge every now and then when we start to talk too much. Most sales professionals have discovered that one of the most effective tools in selling is the art of listening. Listening to customers' needs, listening for new product ideas and listening to prospects to get a better handle on how to work with them. I'm sure most of us realize the rewards of being a skilled listener, but it still doesn't stop many of us from chattering too much. Don't ask me why. Maybe we get bored with listening. Maybe we begin to think we're so smart that we know more than the other person. Or maybe we believe what we have to say is much more important. Whatever the reason, the result is the same. We turn people off.
A few years ago one of my salespeople came to me and said she was perplexed. She loves selling. She loves her customers. She travels throughout her territory regularly and is a top performer year after year. But she was going through a dry spell and just couldn't figure out why. So she asked me to accompany her as she made some sales calls. Her hope was that I would pick up on something she was doing during calls that was causing her problems. Maybe she wasn't presenting her story well enough or maybe she was making the wrong points with her customers. So off we went.
The first call was with a senior executive at an advertising agency. He was a gregarious fellow who made it clear he was happy to see us. In fact, as we were walking to his office he told us we already had the business. He said we were wasting our time calling on him because he was sold. But that didn't stop my colleague. Before anyone had the chance to sit down, she started talking, going on and on. The executive again told us we already had won the business, so he didn't need to be sold. That's when I interrupted my colleague, just as she was about to launch into more selling. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. We thanked the executive for his business and headed across town for another appointment.
The next stop was almost a repeat of the first one. My colleague was so filled with enthusiasm that she just couldn't contain herself. Two people met us this time. Again, before anyone was seated, the sales pitch had already begun. It was a tough thing to watch, but we got through the call. That night, over dinner, we reviewed the events of the day. That's when I told her I knew what the problem was-she was just talking too much. She certainly wasn't listening. She clearly had no idea how she was coming across. This just shows how important it is for the boss to venture out into the field on a regular basis. Everyone needs to be critiqued to avoid succumbing to bad habits. After all, we're just human.
That's really the point. All of us love to talk. It's human nature. In business, however, it's just as important to be a good listener. Years ago a salesman friend told me a story he swears is true. He made a call one day on someone he considered a good prospect. He introduced himself and sat down. Then the prospect started talking. He continued talking steadily for close to 15 minutes. Without the salesman saying one word, the prospect talked himself into placing a large order. The salesman learned a lesson that day that stayed with him throughout his career. But I know others in sales who just don't get it. They'll always talk too much and never figure out why they aren't more successful.
Silence can be golden,
Charles S. Lauer