Every one of you who is running their own business has built the muscles to sell your product/service/vision. Some of you are good at it and some of you are still a work in progress.
To be an effective salesperson you must have the following traits:
- A minimum ability to speak or write your messages,
- Fully understand your product,
- Easily share your value as compared with competing products,
- Deliver a proposal (financial or otherwise) that exchanges value, and
- Finally, you must be able to secure agreement (close the deal).
These over-simplified five bullets are the foundation of an effective salesperson and company founder as every startup founder/entrepreneur/sole proprietor is continually selling something. Executing these five are necessary but do not even remotely guarantee success. People who blindly run this playbook are order-takers not sales people.
In order to be a rockstar-sales agent, you must develop other skills that are not as obvious and take significantly more time to master.
Today, we talk about listening.
This week, I witnessed a sad example of the absence of a listening trait. While visiting a mid-west city as a keynote speaker armed with the goal of bringing entrepreneurial best practices to this fly-over metro, I had the opportunity to sit with a very senior executive. In the 30 minutes that we had allocated, he talked for 27 minutes. Not only did he grab all of the airtime, the thoughts he shared with me (his pitch) were completely opposite of what I think and do. He never asked one question of me. All he did was sell his city.
When you are new to selling, a simple but naive approach is to use as many words as you can muster to convince your buyer that you have everything he needs to achieve his/her goals. Most rookies dive in quickly and outline the key features of the product and even share a few benefits.
I get it. You are hungry and want to show that you are a top-notch sales person. With this motivation, you let your brain get the best of you as you say to yourself “I want to sell you my idea so badly that I am willing to say anything in order to get the deal”. So, you let loose the wave of words in hopes that something sticks.
STOP. You are now moving backwards not forwards towards a close.
The ability to ask a few simple questions and genuinely listen to your intended buyer’s answers can prove to be enlightening. Call this customer discovery or call this being an active listener. Either way, the need to develop some listening skills is paramount to growing your business.
Experts say the one thing you can do is to lean in, listen then follow every customer response not with your counter argument but simply ask another question. Try it and let me know how it plays out for you.
This article first appeared in INC.COM – find more of my articles there.
Posted by Chris Heivly
Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. Currently, I am one of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory making 10-14 seed investments per year, founder and MC of the Big Top Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities.