How to Succeed AT Sales | Listening | Part IV

How to Succeed in Sales – Part 4 – Listening (Mar 25, 2017)

This is the fourth in our series. Some might term this as the probe step. However, in my experience, the term probe seems to be more about us and the real issue is about the customer. Therefore, listening is a more appropriate term. The listening phase builds on what we have been talking about in parts 1 -3. It takes all that we have learned and allowed us to apply our product to the prospect’s situation. We now come into the first face to face meeting with a straw man proposal which we are going to prove out by asking questions of the prospect, while we gain rapport and trust with that prospect. Again, People buy from People. This is the most interesting and probably longest (time wise) section in the sales process. It does not have to be tied to one meeting or communications, but may be spread across many to get all of the information out so we can confidently apply it to the next step – ‘Packaging It Up’. Remember the sales system we are talking about, is a process to be followed diligently at each and every prospect. Sales is not the art of persuasion, like many think it is, but the science of helping the customer.

To be successful, you must have passion about what you are selling or building. If you are not passionate, find some other line of work which you can be passionate about. You will save everyone a whole bunch of time and frustration.

This could be the first time that you and your prospect meet face to face. First impressions are everything. You need to quickly size up what type of personality the prospect has and talk to him in his particular physiologic language. Remember above all things, people buy from people who they like and are like them. This is probably the most important thing that you will learn in this series.

Let’s review how you got here. In Part I – you followed the marketing focus and the process of a successful sale. In Part II, you started to build a pre-call plan on possible accounts, came up with targets that best fit your product or service. In Part 3 you did some calling and introduced yourself to the prospect keeping in mind how people communicate. Talking his language. You may even have picked up a few keywords on things, which the prospect needed. Part IV, we are moving forward with all that we have learned for a real face to face sales call. All the steps before will be helpful to us here. But remember, now it is the time to be empathetic and listen.

Sidebar | It will be greatly helpful if you build, write down, practice a calling plan. It will keep you on track and appear more professional. Because of the efficiency, it respects your prospects time.

We are now at the listening step. We are asking open ended questions about the possible use of our product or service and listening to the customer for a best fit. At this point we are a consultant to the prospect, looking for a solution to accomplish their goal. Note the tense here. It is not about us, it is about the customer. The more you give them the more you will receive and the better you will feel about it all around. Therefore, stop thinking about yourself. Once you do this, you will never have to worry about $$$ and quota attainment again.

To this point you have identified a possible fit with your product, engineering, or just natural knowledge that you have. Now we need to get the customer talking by asking questions, which need more than a yes or no answer. Find out what the prospect needs, how it affects him, then translate this information into how your product or service can provide him with a path to succeed. It might not always be a straightforward, think outside of the box. Maybe it’s an engineering help you can provide, or linking the prospect up with a partner who can supply more than you can. Maybe it’s a group effort. The Prospect will quickly respect your expertise that you are not just trying to make a sale for yourself but are truly interested in helping him with his problem. The word will spread fast that you have depth and integrity beyond all others. The sales will actually start coming to you.

Sidebar |


· Use open ended questions – ones that need some discussion to answer from both you and the prospect. They don’t all have to technical. They can be organizational, profit and loss, what it means to the prospect to solve – etc.

· Don’t use closed ended questions – these are those which can answered with yes or no – you will not build rapport with these type and therefore not get closer information which you need at the ‘Packaging It UP’ step in section V.

· Examples:

o Open Ended Questions – How, What, Who, or Why

§ How does the malfunctioning component effect the operation of the device?

§ What options of changes have you considered?

o Closed Ended Questions – Do, Is, Are, Would

§ Generally, these are questions which can be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’

§ These don’t allow the prospect to open up | but stay wrapped up in themselves. It’s hard to created rapport.

Finally, create yourself a Summary of what you learned. Use a summary once you understand what your customer has learned and is looking for in a solution.


‘Based on my understanding of what you have told me, you are trying to accomplish ____________________, and ____________________ . Is this correct?’


‘Based on what we have just discussed your are interested in __________________ . Is this correct?

Get an agreement, between both, of what you co-understand.

In conclusion:

Use this meeting for you to get and know the customer and them you. Come well prepared with a straw proposal and a list of open ended questions to get the conversation going. Don’t limit yourself to just technology, remember you can move to organization and what this all means to the customer. Make notes, but some like to ask permission first. Don’t move away from this step until you have a firm understanding that your straw proposition is good for everyone. If not take the information you learn hear and come back with another proposal, until it fits the prospect issues. The you can move onto the ‘Packaging It Up’ step in section V.


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