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Monday, 2 May 2011

Stop Talking so Much and Just Listen! You Might Hear Something Useful!

My old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the sage of Wythenshawe, once told me that one of the most important talents that a good salesman could possess was the ability to read upside down.

When I pointed out to him that upside down was a pretty unusual pose for me, he snorted and said:”Not you, you fool – his papers!”

I still looked somewhat bemused and he said: “There are three talents that a good salesman needs to achieve: the ability to listen, the ability to think about what he is going to have for his tea, and the ability to read papers upside down on the buyer’s desk”.

I suggested that this was a little cynical and he grudgingly agreed, while emphasising that he making a perfectly valid point.

Reading the papers upside down could be construed as a metaphor for research into the customer, his business and his market and certainly a good salesman should build a dossier on each of his existing and potential customers.  Perhaps reading papers on a customer’s desk (upside down of course) is going a trifle too far but the point was made.

Phil’s real emphasis was the on the ability to listen and perhaps to demonstrate to the customer that you are actually listening.  There so many old clich├ęs about listening such as “You were given one mouth and two ears so listen for twice the time that you talk”.

I well remember a person being interviewed for a sales position which went well until she said: ”I will make a good sales person – I have the gift of the gab”.  End of interview.

Good eye contact, mirroring the customer’s position, making appropriate comments and nodding occasionally in agreement, all add to the building of rapport.  In other words,  make your interest and listening skills visible.

Crucially it is the ability ask open questions (who, why, what, when, where and how?) and then to sit back and listen, waiting for that critical moment when the customer says something which uncovers the issue that you can solve.

Of course, thinking about what you going to have for tea is foolish if it gets in the way of the discussion because you need to work out and know precisely what you are going to tell the customer and how you can help them solve the problem.

If you ask the right questions, you will be given the right answers and that may offer you the luxury of thinking about that meal.  I suspect that Phil Copp always enjoyed his tea.

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