At least by classic definitions, I have never considered myself to be a particularly good salesperson. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get the job done. For example, while I despise closes, I am a good closer. I’m really not much good at conquering objections either. Instead, I avoid them altogether by anticipating and addressing them before they crop up. If I do anything well, I am a good listener and while that may be less obvious than are most other aspects of the sales game, it does position me with a tremendous, often strategic, advantage in any selling situation.
Listening has always been one of the most important skills in selling. The art of social listening today, especially given the abundance of signals that are being emitted via the various social channels, is even more important while at the same time it is even more challenging. Not only is sheer volume (both level AND quantity) an issue, conversations are coming at us from every direction and they are doing so 24/7.
We have never had the chance to listen to so many conversations, with so many people, without any geographic limitations at all, as we have right now … today. This represents the opportunity that is social selling.
Why be a better listener? Would you like to make more sales? Good answer! Successful selling has always been based on our ability to create and nurture relationships and people have always bought from those who they like, trust, and respect. Salespeople who do little more than talk about themselves rarely qualify on any count.
If the new sales model is conversation and education and we are expected to engage with our customers (and potential customers) in meaningful ways that are unique to them … how can we possibly hope to achieve these goals without being a great listener!? It’s simple. You can’t.
What does it mean to be a good listener?
You listen and you do so actively. Falling asleep or checking your email while someone is talking are probably not the best examples of active listening. Additionally …
- You clarify and confirm. How many times have you asked someone a question only to receive a perfectly good answer albeit for a completely different query? It happens a lot! Restate the question in your own words and ask if you have a correct understanding before you answer it.
- After you answer a question (or respond to an objection), confirm that you have satisfied their request.
- You review your notes prior to your next meeting (maybe you even send your client a written recap of this meeting) and you are fully prepared for your next step.
- You can listen with your eyes in addition to your ears. Like ears, you also have two eyes. Use them! Coincidentally, you only have one mouth. Food for thought which is why we call it your “pie hole”.
You consistently demonstrate that you are a good listener. You build trust and you earn relationships. Trust combined with credibility equals sales. Boom!
Where do we listen?
Certainly, you can listen everywhere or you can narrow your search, and your concentration, to those networks where your customers can be found. From a purely business standpoint, it escapes me why anybody would devote time and resources to social platforms with little to no potential for providing us with a return? However, and that being said, your individual customers will dictate their favored communication channel and you will be expected to engage and respond via that channel.
You may also wish to further narrow your listening parameters by geography. For example, if you only wish to market your services locally, there are tools that you can use to identify those users who are within your local area. Read on to learn how we can further narrow our focus to critical individuals.
What tools can we use?
- Social Dashboard – As opposed to having a bunch of tabs open to all of your active social networks, you simply must have a good social dashboard. Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Oktopost would be three to look at.
- Create lists and circles and groups – Depending on the network, you can create lists in Twitter and Facebook, circles in Google+, and groups in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Used effectively, these will allow you to focus your efforts. For example, you could have one such grouping for your prospects and another for current customers.
- Search – Learn to construct basic keyword searches on each of the networks that will scan for both people and for mentions in their updates. While update search used to be possible on LinkedIn via Signals, your keyword searches will on this platform will be limited to profiles.
- Keyword tools – Too many to list here and particularly for Twitter. For monitoring the web, I have always been fond of Google Alerts and it’s free!
- Newsle – Newsle is a great little app that is now owned by LinkedIn. Newsle scans the web for mentions of your connections and then delivers those to your inbox. You then have the ability to share those stories and it’s a great way to make a meaningful touch and to score a few brownie points.
What are we listening for?
Keep in mind that your connections, and your connection’s connections, are constantly conversing about topics that are interesting and perhaps even profitable.
- Their needs and pain points – You customers and potential customers, are expressing their needs, their frustrations, and are asking for recommendations … continuously.
- Things that we have in common – These represent relationship openers and/or builders.
- Their likes and hates – Often these can be clues to how to sell to them!
- Opportunities – These might be potential business or chances for you to render assistance in completely unrelated areas. Gold.
- Influencers – Are these folks influencers and/or are they conversing with influencers that should be added to your connections?
- Mentions of our brand – Good, bad, or indifferent. All mentions are opportunities!
- Mentions of our customers or of opportunities for our customers – Comment and/or forward to your customers as would be appropriate.
When and how do we move from listener to engager?
Are you planning to “show up and throw up” or are you going to listen to the conversation, determine if you have something of value to contribute, and then provide that value when and where appropriate? This can be a tenuous dance. Five things for sure … your attempt to engage must be perceived as being …
- Timely – I can’t teach you timing but even in kindergarten you learned that you don’t just show up and inject yourself into an active conversation. At least, I hope that you did.
- Appropriate – Is it appropriate that you do share and it what you wish to share appropriate for that conversation?
- Authentic – If your engagement is not perceived as being authentic, you would have been better off using your pie hole for it’s other intended purpose.
- Sincere – Nobody likes an Eddie Haskell.
- Of value – Engagements that are of value are not only appreciated, they increase your value in the eyes of others!
Miss any of these five and your name is probably going to be “mud” or worse. LinkedIn endorsements are a great example. When somebody who does not know me beyond our connection status endorses me for skills that they have no way of knowing that I do have, or I do not have, or even for a skill that I have to look up to figure out what the hell it is … that’s a problem. It’s also a mark on you that you are going to have a tough time scrubbing off.
Being a good listener takes work and it is a life-long vocation. However, the dividends that this skill will return are going to be enormous in all aspects of your life including sales. Do you have a good “listening” story that you might be willing to share with us?