Shhhh… Listen and win new business!

lost art of listening

Stop shouting! Listen. And you will win.

The bottom line for every new business person is winning the business. You plan carefully for every good lead and every potential opportunity. You charge towards any good lead, moving in for the win… and with a hope and a prayer you’ll be able to bring this account back to your agency.

After all that time nurturing the lead, generating the awareness, stroking the relationship, building to that golden moment when you get to offer your value to a willing and able prospect, most firms fail. The prospect is waiting, anticipating your very next word… and at that critical moment when it’s time to strike, the so called “wall of words” flies out of your mouth. You know the problem: The prospect starts with something simple, “we’re thinking of a new brochure…” and you pounce all over it. Interrupting them and rolling through all the great brochures your firm has done. Perhaps even pulling some sample out of your handy portfolio. Ugh.

The prospect feels like they’re wasting their time if the agency person sitting across the desk from them pretends they “know it all.” Nothing worst then a chattering-ninny who refuses to take time and listen!

More often than not, we don’t listen because we’re too busy trying to “sound” smart – thinking of the next great thing we’re going to say rather than paying attention to what the prospect is saying. Marketing folks are the worst at this. Something about being in an industry that has little metrics for success… but that’s a whole other chapter.

The answer is simple: take the first step – start by listening.

Over at Inc. Magazine Marla Tabaka, who is a small-business advisor, wrote;

“Have you ever stood before an audience, uncertain whether you are truly connecting with them? Or, have you spoken to an employee who appears to be getting the message–but whose actions later tell another story?

To you, it’s simple: Communicate your thoughts and the facts quickly and concisely and anyone will understand.

Not true. Facts and statistics may tell a story, but if you truly want to effect change and influence the way your audience thinks and feels, you will have to go beyond straightforward communications. The key to really getting people to listen–and act: Touch them on an emotional level.”

She goes on to summarize the key points to effective communication, adapted from a book by Helio Fred Garcia, who is executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership. When leaders know they are not actually connecting they tend to double down and push more data and facts instead of trying a new approach. That’s where things get really toxic.

5 Strategies Garcia says can help you stop reciting facts and start making connections:

  1. Keep your mouth shut–for a couple of moments.
  2. Get your audience engaged.
  3. Grab their attention to make it memorable.
  4. Use verbal cues.
  5. Recap what matters.

Some great advice, and as they say, go read the whole thing! I will just add my two cents to that advice.

Active Listening Key to Winning.

The simple truth is very few of us were taught good listening skills. What we call active listening, where you not just ‘hear’ what’s being said, but improve its quality and quantity. This is the most effective way to improve decision-making – both ours and the prospects.

Why is this important? Good listening is the key to winning the business! It will help you solve the prospects problems, better address their needs, and help both you, and them, be the hero. Most new business pros are focused improving their selling skills, or their speaking skills, or working on becoming better presenters. Very view work on their listening skills. This is why so many marketing firms end up wasting so much time on new business reviews, RFP’s and pitches. Most end up as dead ends and lost opportunities.

Rules For Closing The Deal:

  1. Listen carefully; hear the prospect out. Avoid the temptation to talk or try to solve the need right then and there.
  2. Confirm your understanding of the need. Repeat it back to the prospect to ensure you understand exactly what their concern/need/desire is.
  3. Acknowledge the prospect’s point of view. Practice empathy; don’t try to impose your firm’s “superior” abilities at this stage. Better to agree and “feel their pain.”
  4. Now push past that need to see if there are any hidden needs. Something as simple as a brochure can lead you better understanding the prospects business if you ask the right questions at this stage.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 three more times!

The sharp ones among you will notice that at no time do I offer a solution, or offer our credentials, or offer any help at all. THIS IS CRITICAL. A prospect has little trust in you or your firm’s abilities and will discount any solutions you offer at this stage. All I’m doing is putting all my effort into understanding their needs.

We teach that you must probe for no less than 4 needs – MUCH better if you find 4 needs AND a fever (A fever is a personal need that can show you how to really help that person and win their trust). And then you leave. The longer you linger the greater you risk removing the perception of trust, of the concerned listening advisor who may be able to help… this is serious business and you will think deeply on what was discussed. Head back to the office and work on what you’ve learned, and how to help them make the right decision to solve those needs. Remember, you’ve got less then 24 hours to get back to them or the opportunity is lost. Speed wins.

We have many training manuals that teach you how to use our Personality Profiling (Chemistry Wins New Businss) methodology as a way to help you select your best communication strategy – i.e. how to make the best connection. Be it in a formal presentation or one-on-one.

Having the right Personality Profile strategy is the key to making a good connection with a prospect. It’s all about the timing and what makes a prospect comfortable. Our Torch training manual is two full days of understating how to do this, and then how you can go on and win the account in less than 48 hours – without pitching!

The first goal of anyone working in new business is to build trust with that prospect. We have a saying around the office that “80% of new business revolves around trust.” We’ve yet to be proven wrong. Always remember, that prospect is a person. A person that has likes and dislikes on how they prefer to receive information and make decisions. A person with whom you need to establish a personal connection. A person with whom you must have their trust.

And the best way to establish trust is to start listening.

 

Top photo by ~the-wabbit

 

Bob Sanders

President at Sanders Consulting Group
Our only focus is helping creative organizations develop new directions for growth and operational excellence. We do no work for clients. We're on your side.