Everyone has a story to tell, but who really wants to listen? Successful sales professionals do! For business to transact successfully, questions must be answered. Consequently, questions must first be asked. A prospect that tells a story opens the possibility to share something personal, perhaps an individual problem, that invites dialogue. That step requires trust. Meanwhile, the effective listener wants to introduce a solution, one that creates value. Ultimately, business and personal relationships grow based on creating value. Furthermore, rewards are available to the individual that builds trust and creates value. Successful sales professionals tactfully ask about, and then listen to stories.
The simplicity in storytelling coincides with its effectiveness. Proficient communication skills extend beyond hearing, and into understanding, and then to feeling. Skilled sales professionals can sell in environments upon getting answers to questions like, “What does it mean to your organization to solve this large problem cost effectively?”. Superior sales professionals probe the depth of problems beyond “cost effective solutions”. Questions like, “What does this mean to your individual reputation?”; or, “How does this obstacle impact the ultimate success of your signature project?”; or, “How does a successful choice ease your personal job security fears?”, personalize the importance of making a decision with a trusted, empathetic resource. The emphasis shifts to an option that is personally comforting, as well as professionally viable. Communicating in an environment of trust and emotional security is essential for reaching that point. Discerning where is that point comes from drawing insight out of the prospect by empathetically hearing his story. Product and industry intelligence reveals the smart choice. Emotional connectivity with sufficient knowledge seals the emotional bond creating confidence to say “yes”.
Effective listening fuels this successful process for the results that sales professionals want. Getting prospects to tell their story requires patience and confidence. The more pain that the story elicits the more welcoming the reprieve that the patient listener offers. Improving efficiency through a specific purchase satisfies an operational metric. Delivering a solution that clearly highlights the purchaser’s performance and managerial talent fortifies a career trajectory with the potential for incremental bonuses. Buying for better metrics checks a box. A purchase decision that improves one’s financial and career future is a better buy, all else being equal. Listening intently to the story the buyer shares enables the seller to position a solution that satisfies the most deeply felt issue. Again, sales success comes from creating value. Maximize value by addressing the most pressing issue that you heard directly through the buyer’s story.
The power of listening separates the order taker from the solution provider. Too many sales people want to tell their answer. Far fewer, more wildly successful, sales professionals insist that the prospect “Tell Me Your Story’. As a rule, a story has a protagonist, it has conflict, it has resolution. By asking, embracing the silence, and then listening, the seller allows the prospect ample opportunity to dictate the hero and the problem that the potential transaction addresses. The superior sales professional then accepts the opportunity to contribute humbly to the story by delivering the resolution. Listen patiently. Ask confidently. Storytelling fundamentals lead to successful sales results. Establish the narrative and close the deal!
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond