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Sunday, 10 June 2012

Are You in Selling Mode? Then Ask Questions, Shut Up and Listen!

I am an avid collector of interesting quotations and I came across a couple this week which had some resonance for me.  They are from the Greek philosopher, Epictetus (55-135AD) and I guess that you know someone to whom they could and indeed should apply:

·      Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly.
·      We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
My old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe, although he had probably never heard of Epictetus, was a great proponent of both these strictures.
He would go with the engineer on to the shop floor (engineering shop, that is), tastefully attired in his long mac and trilby hat, moustache quivering and pipe at the ready (it helped his thought process, he would say), ask a question and wait for the answer.  If none came he would stay quiet until the engineer couldn’t stand the strain and started talking.
Some would say that Phil was taciturn; if they did, they missed the fact that he had a mind as sharp as needles and never missed a trick.
However, as he often said to me:
·       “If you are always talking, you will never hear what he's saying, or know what he’s thinking or what he wants, so shut up and listen”
It seems to me that the quotations above cover that philosophy perfectly.
Really good sale people are not big talkers: they are ferocious askers of questions and subsequent listeners.
The art is to use open questions starting with “Who, Why, What, where, When or How....?” and there has to be an answer.  Closed questions starting with a verb like “Do, Are, Would, Have...? etc” can be answered either Yes or No without any elaboration..
After all that, of course, it is essential to listen and keep listening.  If the respondent goes quiet assume that they are thinking and just wait until they crack and carry on.  Not easy but it really does work.  Above all stay quiet until you hear something that enables you to respond with a solution to their problem.
Remember, selling is not telling; it is about asking intelligent questions and then listening.

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