One of the big mistakes we all make when we’re new to management, regardless of the department we’re overseeing, is trying to fit employees into our vision of a perfect person for that particular position. Sometimes that’s driven by how we ourselves did the job if we excelled at doing exactly what we’re now managing people to do. Sometimes it’s because we’re basing that vision on one or two people we’ve worked with that were great at it. Usually it doesn’t take long for new managers to realize the flaw in that logic. It doesn’t allow us to identify employee’s individual strengths so we can play to those strengths and it’ll inevitably cause us to miss out on some good hires that don’t fit that specific mold. However, while there’s a wide variety of personality types that can have success in almost any position there are a few things that are universal. On the sales side one of those universal things is this. In my opinion based on my experience, the most important trait for a salesperson is their ability to listen.
Unfortunately, this runs counter to the mold most managers look for in salespeople. I know this because I’ve heard more people than I can count bragging about how their new sales hire has the gift of gab and can talk to anyone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a people person that can talk to, and relate to, anyone. That’s of course a very good thing. But that skill is not nearly as important in sales as being a good listener. That’s because if you get someone talking about their business, which almost everyone likes to do, they will inevitably tell you how to sell them over the course of that conversation. That’s why discovery calls where we ask tons of questions to determine their need and then go back to the drawing board to come up with a custom solution for them are far more effective then walking in and pushing a pre-determined package.
The good news is, that it’s not impossible to teach a good talker how to be a good listener. On the programming side we do it all the time to teach a solo host how to be a team show host and learn to leave space for their co-host, callers and guests. It’s by no means easy. It’s often frustrating and takes awhile but it’s well worth it. Teaching someone who has the confidence and courage to walk up to a stranger and talk to them, much less ask them for money, how to be disciplined enough to use that skillset to get them to talk and resist the urge to over inject themselves into the conversation, is a very powerful thing.
I speak from personal experience because I’m a talker, a planner and a guy with a lot of the answers simply because I’ve been doing this since I was a toddler and I learned from some very smart people over the years. If I’m not careful all of this will lead me to the conclusion that I can assume I have a solution for someone based off of limited information. I know that it’s important I fight off that urge, do some more digging and a LOT of listening otherwise I won’t identify the specific, custom solution that will address their needs. That’s why I do market assessments, an initial market visit, and meet with as many of the players involved as possible before I start throwing out suggestions. A radio sales equivalent of this is looking at a client’s website for a few minutes and assuming we know everything we need to know about their business to determine exactly what we should sell them without even talking with them first.
What do you think? How important is it for sellers to be good listeners? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.
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