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Listening: Heard it all before?

The Spring 2013 issue of Personal Selling & Sales Management features an article presenting research done on listening. Surely we have learnt all we need to about this topic? Is there anything new to say?

As so often is the case with sales research, we often see a study that tells us what we already know. Except that it wasn’t shown before via research. There can’t be a sales person alive who has not been told during a training programme how important listening is.

The survey explicitly finds evidence for a link between listening skills and empathy and positive reaction from customers. In other words, if we listen really well to customers, they end up liking and trusting us. Not much new there then.

BUT, the research does show that over time, this behaviour creates long lasting impact, something which may not have been considered before.

As a sales trainer for 15 years, I have noticed that the active listening attitude is the most profound and far reaching attitude we train: It has the power of course to discover customer needs and solutions better, the power to create trust, the power to create connection and the power to influence positively.

Furthermore, the act of self control and focus on another develops something much more powerful: A kind of mindfulness  which over time, results in a better ability to manage our own responses and behaviour.

The very academic title of the research doesn’t do much to help “Salesperson listening in the extended sales relationship: An exploration of cognitive, affective and temporal dimensions“. In the end, we must be truly interested in what our customers have to say and give them time & space to say it!

One good acid test you can do today, is to count how many times people interrupt each other during meetings. By definition, if we interrupt someone, we are thinking about what we want to say rather than focusing on what we can hear.

Anderson Hirst


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