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Active Listening Is Different Than Passive Engagement

My main criticism of new sales reps is that they are just trying to sell through passive engagement.

Wow, that may seem weird. Isn’t that what sales reps are supposed to do? Sell?

I believe, instead, sales reps need to be actively listening. That goes beyond just selling a product or passive “engagement” or whatever nonsense buzz word seems to be floating around business circles these days. Active listening is far more complex, because it eliminates hubris. No one cares what the sales person wants, its all about surpassing customer’s needs so they want the product beyond just the initial sale. Passive engagement is where you say you are engaging the prospect or customer, but really, you’re doing just enough to make the call last longer, trying to put out more sales points to “get the sale” rather than truly discover what feature of your product can work best for the customer.

This may seem like apples and oranges to critique new sales associates, however, I believe its valid. Especially when sales reps aren’t seeking out customer needs to build off of presenting added value to them.

New sales associates are trying to hit those first quotas. That number set before them as a goal. In order to satisfy their daily or weekly projections.

But the issue becomes whether or not those sales associates are actually costing themselves sales, not only in the short term, but the long one as well. Merely, by not actively listening to what their customer is asking for.

Consider what active listening does.

Customers typically do not know specifically what they want when a sales person calls. They have an idea. In fact, if you actively listen to a customer, you’ll learn a lot about your product during each sales call that isn’t anywhere in the instruction manual. You may even discover that there is no instruction manual and probably should be.

That doesn’t come simply by breaking down arguments with open-ended questions while claiming “engagement.”

That comes from actively listening to each customer response, critically thinking of what that information means, and providing a response yourself.

Frankly, active listening isn’t easy. There is a drop-off between passive listening (which most people do) and active listening (which a lot of people don’t do).

The former just sits there during a conversation, waiting for the other side to stop talking, then spits out another question or comment, which are generic in nature.

The latter initiates a true conversation, where the dialogue moves the conversation forward, both sides learning more about the other.

That’s because if there is no active listening, there really isn’t a conversation in the first place.

Often, the sales mantra focuses on the classic hits personal radio station of What’s In It For Me (WIIFM). But the sales person often confuses that with thinking the radio station should be playing while talking to the customer. It’s all about what the customer wants, or thinks that they want, and whether or not the product that is being sold can fit the customer’s needs.

Every sales rep’s goal with WIIFM should be to remove themselves from the equation – to participate in active listening – and develop from there what the customer or prospect wants in the first place.

A lot of customers will present to you various ideas of why they aren’t fully invested in your product. Some of these concerns may be very valid. A lot of customers will also present to you ideas of how to improve the marketability of your product, so it not only meets their needs, but surpasses their expectations, presenting them with an added value.

However, that’s only if the sales person is actively listening.

Call it that buzzword “engagement” or whatever, but if the sales rep doesn’t really care about what the customer says, or critically formulate a proper response, there is not conversation there.

Sales just isn’t about meeting the needs of the customer or selling them on a product because you need to hit a quota. Sales is about helping someone meet their needs through your product.

Active listening not only sets up that scenario, but also the one of repeat business. Passive listening does just the opposite.

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