In sales, listening is a form of magic that leads to more sales.
When customers are truly listened to, they feel known and understood. People get bigger when they know they’re being listened to and they tell you more. They feel safer and more secure as well, and that leads to trust. That’s why listening with authentic curiosity can produce profound business results.
And yet, for many people -- including sales professionals -- listening has become a lost art. A general rule of thumb is that as a sales representative, you should be talking or asking questions about 30% of the time and your customer 70%. That means you should be listening 70% of the time. It’s very simple: if you’re not listening enough, you’re losing sales.
But it’s not just about how much you listen, it’s about the quality and depth of your listening.
There are 2 levels of listening.
Level 1 listening is the most common, with little depth or impact. At Level 1 our attention is on ourselves. We listen to the words of the other person but our focus is on what it means to us. At Level 1 the spotlight is on me: my thoughts, my opinions, my advice, my solution to your problem, my opportunities. Level 1 conversations are usually fairly one-sided, and the buyer feels like little more than a potential purchase order.
Level 2 listening is where the money is. At Level 2 there is a sharp focus on the other person. You can see it in people’s posture when they are listening at Level 2, leaning forward, looking at the other person with authentic interest. The listener’s attention is centered on the other person with not much awareness of the outside world.
True influencing and selling begins at Level 2 listening because it creates a high level of empathy, collaboration, clarification and trust. At this level, you’re unattached to your ideas and opinions. You are not preoccupied with your own agenda. The conversation becomes spontaneous, your questions flow seamlessly from what your buyer is telling you and you’re no longer constantly trying to figure out your next move.
In fact, if your attention is on trying to figure out what to say next – what brilliant question to pose to the buyer – that should be a clue that you are listening at Level 1: inside your own experience.
Or if you are talking and talking, that’s another clue that either you’ve stopped listening or you’re too focused on Level 1 listening – being the expert, solving the problem. The time for that is in the next phase of the selling process once you truly understand what the buyer needs, why they need it, what it means to them, and have built a high level of trust and engagement…by listening at Level 2.