Once upon a time there was a deaf salesman named Aesop. He tried to sell his wares to the blind brothers Grimm, but no matter how much he elaborated on the features of his wares, the brothers Grimm could not see the benefits. The brothers tried to explain to Aesop that they could not see the features that he described so eloquently, and that they would like to hold the wares so they could appreciate them from their own perspectives. Unfortunately, Aesop was busy talking and could not hear their requests, so the parties separated in mutual frustration and disappointment. How could the grim results of this fable be avoided?

There are two schools of sales, these are Fishing with a Big Net and the Fly Fisherman. Fishing with a Big Net requires an investment in marketing, continually disseminating your message about features and hoping that you will catch some consumers. Imagine dropping a big net of the side of your boat and hoping that when you pull it up that you will have some small fish inside it. If you drop a small net, you might catch a few fish. If you want an abundance of fish then you need to invest in a bigger net and be prepared to cast it repeatedly in different waters.

On the other hand, if you are a Fly Fisherman, you take pride in preparing very specific and customized lures in the right waters to catch the big fish. It requires patience and precision to cast your line in the right place and gradually pull the big fish to shore. There is an art to the cast, and also to the give and take that it takes to reel in the reward. Being a fly fisherman requires patience and skill.

If you have direct contact with potential clients or customers, then stop selling and start listening.

There is a fundamental flaw in the perception of sales that any person or organization can be sold at any time. This fundamental flaw presumes that people are trophies to be won, and does not recognize the human element of relationships that is so important to being an effective sales professional. If you would like to increase your effectiveness in sales, know what you have to offer and listen to what the customer has to tell you. The customer has needs, budget, schedules and personal goals. If the items that you have to offer can fit into the customer plans, then you can work together to integrate your solution with their needs. Otherwise, you are trying to sell a hairbrush to a bald man, and the features don't really matter.

If your focus is the intent to convey your message, your features and your benefits, then you have just limited the potential for your success. Most customers don't really care very much about what you have to offer to everyone else, they are really interested in understanding if what you have to offer can meet their personal requirements. This presumes that you have taken the time to listen and understand what their requirements are!

If the customer asks about you or your product and indicates interest, then tell them. Sometimes this is an intent for the customer to determine if they can trust you, and sometimes it is an interest in your product. Listen to the customer so you can tell the difference and respond accordingly.

If the customer is hesitant, take time to build trust. It is more important to be trusted than to close a sale. Trust creates an opportunity for a future relationship and potential for more sales opportunities. Without trust, you may or may not be successful with the one time sale.

if the customer wants to talk then listen. Encourage the customer to engage in conversation. Take time to learn what is important to them, what they value, their goals, their budget and their schedule. Sometimes the sales event is near at hand, and sometimes it is something that will come in time. Be patient and prepared to move at the pace of your client or customer and your pipeline will always be full.

If the customer pauses in conversation then wait for them. A pause in conversation is an opportunity for internal reflection and introspection. Far too often professional sales people feel compelled to fill a gap in conversation with a sudden burst of feature descriptions. It is far better to nurture the silence and allow the customer time to contemplate the conversation. This means that the message is being digested and thoughtfully considered, this is a good thing.

Even if your customers are blind to the features of your wares, you can be a successful sales professional if you listen to your customers. You are asking your customers to make some sort of purchase, to trust you with an investment of their hard earned money. Big or small, one time sale or renewing contract, you are asking for their trust and confidence in you. What better way to build trust than to give the gift of your interest in that person? What better way to demonstrate your interest than to listen to what they have to say?


Words of Wisdom

"We've all heard the criticism "he talks too much". When was the last time you heard someone criticized for listening too much?"
- Norm Augustine, Chairman, Lockheed Martin

"Listen carefully for personal values expressed within the spoken words and you will discover the intent as well as the meaning."
- John Mehrmann, Executive Blueprints Inc

"Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery."
- Dr. Joyce Brothers

Author's Bio: 

John Mehrmann is a freelance writer and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital. www.ExecutiveBlueprints.com provides resource materials for trainers, sample Case Studies, educational articles and references to local affiliates for consulting and executive coaching. http://www.InstituteforAdvancedLeadership.com provides self-paced tutorials for personal development and tools for trainers. Presentation materials, reference guides and exercises are available for continuous development