A win-at-all-costs Operations Director summons her business manager into her office. She pointedly explains, “I have just negotiated a budget exception from the vice-president to upgrade our key production equipment. I need you to negotiate the most effective technology solution possible so that we achieve our production goals this year. And, because of this project’s visibility heads will roll if any component of this deployment fails. To be even more clear. If the results underperform to the point that sacrifices must be made, and it comes down to either me or you… it’s going to be you!” The business manager listened. He understood. The selected vendor must be emotionally and strategically aligned with his department’s priorities.
In this scenario where multiple solutions will be reviewed and evaluated, the business manager has a clear directive. Consequently, the successful business development professional in this competitive arena must focus on fulfilling the business manager’s strategic wants. Beyond a sales professional’s skills at storytelling to maximize the sales’ value, the seller now must demonstrate Story-Listening. The vendor must listen. He must connect. He must understand. The winning solution will meet the requirements of multiple needs. Not only must the vendor prioritize his own organization’s needs and wants, the successful vendor must craft a solution that maximizes the business manager’s satisfaction. Meeting someone else’s expectations requires intense listening and a higher level of engagement! That special skill’s reward is the privilege of earning increased revenue and satisfying all parties.
Effective Story-Listening represents a heightened sensitivity to the counterpart’s position. Nuance, tone of voice, frame of reference are essential pieces of hearing a story, as well as interpreting the literal language. Ignoring non-verbal cues is the opposite of discerning emotion. The superior sales professionals is consistently in tune with language, inflection, and subtlety. The words are important. They indicate features, benefits, and terms. However, to maximize the totality of understanding, literal listening has to transcend to emotional connectivity. The savvy sales professional is equipped to offer faster delivery in exchange for more vendor-friendly financing, if timeliness is the most critical attribute. Story-Listening reveals the implicit communication that reveals true priorities.
Undoubtedly, clever sales professionals with a winning story that connects buyers to benefits have an advantage. Nevertheless, attentive sales professionals focus on listening to the story that the buyer tells in order to meet the explicit needs that the prospect values most! Creating a sales strategy that meets the buyer’s personal needs strikes an emotional chord with the human being purchasing the good, service, or solution. Once the buying professional communicates their priorities, then person-to-person possibilities surface. A buying professional has to be faithful to their employer and their priorities. But, when opportunities emerge where specific desires are available to the buyer without compromising integrity or value, the savvy sales professional will seal a deal between two professionals representing entire enterprises. That deal only emerges when a sales professional hears, understands and delivers in alignment with the buyer’s individual strategic priorities. Story-Listening opens the door for the personal connection to close the transaction.
By Glenn W Hunter
Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC