Tag Archives: listening

Avoid the Annoying Tendency of One-Up-Man-Ship

Let your customer or prospect bask in their glory.

A while ago I was purchasing a new car. The sales rep and I were on a test drive and chatting back and forth.  For whatever reason, I shared a football  ‘glory days story.’  Almost immediately, and without acknowledgement of my tale, the rep launched into his glory days story and, if it was true, it was much better than mine.  In about 30 seconds, he one upped me. Then he told a story of his uncle which was even better.  I guess you could call it a ‘two-up.’

And therein lies the problem.

At this stage there was a disconnect with me and the sales rep for a couple of reasons. Something changed. I didn’t feel quite so special.  First, it told me the rep wasn’t really interested in me or my story.  He wasn’t listening to my tale and thus, not listening to me.  He was simply waiting for his chance to speak.  It was … annoying. In effect, he was saying the story wasn’t important … and by default, I wasn’t important.

Second, he made the moment about him and not about me.  It was supposed to be my moment of basking in the sun.  That his story was a step up from mine was somewhat deflating; it diminished my yarn.  Of course, I recognize that to some degree the guy was trying to ‘empathize’ by providing a related story. He probably convinced himself that his story was rapport building. Quite the contrary.

But here’s the thing: I wasn’t interested in the rep’s story.  And it was clear that the sales rep was not interested in mine.  But the one difference between the two stories was this:  I was the customer; the person who wanted to buy a car.

SELLING LESSON: Let your prospects or customers tell their stories. Nod. Ask a question about the event. Say ‘wow.’  Acknowledge the story. Provide praise or wonder. Make the moment about them.  But don’t …whatever you do… don’t counter it with your tale no matter how enticing it may be .

The customer or the prospect ALWAYS gets the nod. Their story ALWAYS trumps your story.

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The ABCs of Tele-Sales – 26 Powerful Tips for Tele-Sales Success

A is for “ask for the sale” or “advance the sale. Don’t leave a call lingering by NOT asking for the order.  Close it, for Pete’s sake.  Or if you have a longer sales cycle “advance” it by asking the client for some sort of action (accept a proposal, quote, attend a webinar etc.) and then getting a commitment for follow up DATE and Time.  Go here for more information (http://www.telesalesmaster.com/category/closing-and-advancing-the-sales/ )

B is for “body language.” In tele-sales there is no body language. The tone of your voice accounts for about 85% of your message. This means you must deliver your message with conviction.  People are more convinced by the depth of that conviction than the height of your logic. (Go here for more information:  http://www.telesalesmaster.com/892/uncategorized/)

C is for cross sell. Increase the average value of a sale on 20% of your orders by as much as 25% by offering a related item at the end of every call, when appropriate.  You’ll not only educate your customer you’ll put more change in your pocket.  (Go here for more information http://www.telesalesmaster.com/946/add-on-selling/)

D is for Discipline… especially when it comes to prospecting (cold calling). Schedule it. Then do it. When it’s time to dial, dial.  If your day starts at 8:30, start dialing at 8:30. Or earlier. Not 8:50. Not 8:45. Not 8:35. Arrive on time. Start on time. Stick to it. It is your diet to good sales.

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3 Questioning Techniques from Dr. Phil That Every Tele-Prospector Should Know

Can you imagine if Dr. Phil was a tele-sales rep?

He’d be utterly fantastic!  There is a reason why Dr. Phil has such a popular show. He’s a master at getting his guests to open up and discuss the core issue of a problem or a situation. Once the real issues are on the table, the therapy can begin.

When you think about it, tele-sales reps should be doing the same thing. Your approach should be more ‘therapeutic’ with the aim of getting the client to open up and discuss the core issue of a problem or a situation.

You can be the ‘Dr. Phil’ of tele-sales if you follow these three questioning tips:

1. Use Therapeutic Questions

Dr. Phil knows that it takes his quests a little time to get ‘warmed up’ when he questions them on his show.  Their initial responses to his questions are very often general, vague or superficial. It is not necessarily that they are hiding something but rather because it is human nature to be reticent with information when speaking with people we don’t really know.

Kind of like selling, isn’t it?  Prospects typically don’t open up and blossom like a flower right away when questioned by a sales rep.  Prospects hold their answers close to their chests like playing cards simply because they don’t know you and don’t trust you. Knowing this Dr. Phil has a couple of questions that always get to the heart of the matter.

“How Do You Feel About That?”

Asking a prospect how he ‘feels’ about situation or event is brilliant because the question seeks to tap into the ’emotional’ side of selling. At some level, even in B to B, buying is an emotional event. How a prospect ‘feels’ about a situation often directs his or her buying behavior.

For example, suppose you ask a client about their sales growth over the last quarter and the client replies, “Twenty per cent.” That sounds good, doesn’t it? But is it?  Dr. Phil knows there might be more to this answer than meets the eye (ear?) so he would ask, “How do you feel about it?”

“Are you kidding me?” says the client, “In this market and with this product we, should be nailing 30-35%!” Instead of assuming that the current sales growth is good, the sales rep discovers it’s a source of angst.  Whole new ball game in terms of an approach.

“How’s that working for you?”

Here is another question that Dr. Phil would use if he were a sales rep: “How’s that working for you?”  It’s a superb question because it is not only open-ended but it casually asks for an evaluation; it gets the client to elaborate, expand and explain.

For example, if the client says, “I am getting my yearly accreditation at a weekend seminar in Tampa,” Dr. Phil would say, “Oh ya, and how’s that working for you?” as a means to get the client to evaluate the process. He wants their opinions and thoughts and this question helps elicit them.

So, if the client says, “It’s a royal pain in the backside. I lose the weekend and I have to drive 75 miles there and back on Saturday and Sunday,”  you know precisely how it’s NOT working for him. The devil is in the details and this question helps get you the details you often need to evaluate the client’s situation.

2.  Watch Your Delivery

Delivery of these therapeutic questions is critical. Dr. Phil knows that the manner in which he presents a question can influence the quality and the nature of the response from the client.

If you watch him, you will notice that his tone is neutral and non-threatening.  He does not want to give away a bias one way or the other. He doesn’t want to appear too intrusive and too direct because he knows that will put the guest on the defensive.

In the world of tele-sales, your delivery is important for precisely the same reasons. You must ensure that you are not giving your prospect the sense that she is being interrogated.

3. Let them Answer

But what Dr. Phil does best is that he lets guest answer the question. He does not interrupt. He does blather on.  He waits patiently as the client formulates the answer and responds.

Some reps have learned to keep silence but many are not evaluating what they hear but rather they are waiting for their turn to speak or they are waiting to ask the next question regardless of what was said. Dr. Phil would NOT do that. Instead, he listens and evaluates what he hears and based on this analysis he can ask more questions or provide feedback as appropriate.  In short, he is flexible in his approach to question and goes with the flow of the response.

You can do the same. Let your clients answer and tune in to what they are saying and how they are responding to that question. Does it make sense to you? Does it need more elaboration? Does it create other avenues to explore? Think and proceed just like Dr. Phil.


Wear your Dr. Phil hat the next time you question a client or prospect. Follow these three tips …and let me know how it’s working for you and how you feel about it.

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How to Instantly Become a Better Listener in 5 Minutes or Less

One of the challenges with telephone selling is listening.

Listening is tough in a non-face-to-face situation because it is easy to get distracted and hard to stay focused especially if it’s the 23rd call of the day. The net result is that key points are missed, certain questions are not asked, important objections are never answered, follow up items are forgotten, and action items and details are lost.

And that is how YOU lose sales.

The Secret to Listening

The secret to improving your listening ability on the telephone is to listen with a pen in your hand and a pad of paper on your desk. Take notes.

Not a very exciting or sexy solution, is it? But it really is THAT basic, THAT fundamental and THAT effective. Taking notes in a journal or on a sheet of paper is common sense and has been around for about five or six centuries but in this ‘high tech’ age it seems to be a skill that has been lost or forgotten or ignored.

Taking notes may not  be new but it is still is a hela ‘uva way to improve your listening, become more attentive and make more sales.

10 Good Reasons Why You Should Take Handwritten Notes

1.       Taking notes forces your head down.  You can’t peer out the window. You can’t see the commotion around you.  You don’t notice your buddies goofing off.  You are less liable to get distracted or flustered. This creates greater focus and concentration!

2.       With a pen in your hand you can jot down questions that you want to ask the client without interrupting him or her.  If the client babbles on, you won’t forget them.

3.       When your client tosses out an objection or expresses a concern, you can note it. Put a star beside it, circle it or underline it.  And then, when appropriate, you can return to it and address the issue. It won’t fester.

4.       Taking notes is interactive.  You are using your ears AND your eyes AND your hand. You triple, your focus and triple your comprehension and retention.

5.       With notes, you can summarize your clients’ situation, problems or opportunities. They’ll be stunned, amazed and delighted with your thorough and comprehensive recap.   This will give them immense confidence in you and your abilities. Makes you look smart.  It gives you a competitive edge.

6.       Taking notes reduces the chance of errors in an order, quote or proposal.  This saves you time and hassle. And embarrassment.

7.       You can use the notes to thoroughly debrief your manager if you need to discuss an issue or an opportunity.

8.       Handwritten notes provide a permanent record that can be accessed anytime.  You can go back and review the discussion whenever necessary … for whatever reason.  Nice ‘insurance’ policy for any number of reasons.

9.       Notes allow you to gather important data such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, web sites, quantities, colors, sizes, …whatever.  Your accuracy improves.

10.   Note taking on paper allows you to group ideas and information.  For example, if the client expressed three concerns over a 3 minute dialog, you can group those three concerns together to ensure that they are covered.

Keying Data on Your Computer?

Sure, you can take notes on a computer.  But most people don’t type that well or that fast. They get fatigued trying to keep up… and so they quit.  Often there is little room for notes. Sometimes there’s no room for notes at all. Keying is not nearly as efficient or effective.

But here’s the important thing.  The notes you take by hand are not necessarily the notes you place in your customer profile.  The notes by hand are designed to get you listening and keep you focused. The information you put in the computer is the data you want permanently stored; data that others can see and use.  Don’t confuse the two.

Action Item and Summary

Go out and buy a proverbial black book; a binder; a journal; a ringed notebook … anything…something upon which to jot your notes.

Have the book open every time you make a call. Start take notes, become a better listener and become a better telesales rep.

Simple, eh?

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How NOT to Question Your Prospects – 5 Lessons from the Obama/O’Reilly Super Bowl Interview

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News might be a feisty TV journalist but he would make a lousy sales rep.

O’Reilly interviewed President Obama on Sunday prior to the Super Bowl.  That interview helps to illustrate what you should NOT do as a sales rep when questioning a client or prospect.

Lesson #1: Beware The Interrogative Style

For the most part O’Reilly grilled the President. His tone and approach to questioning was aggressive and intimidating.  Part of this is O’Reilly’s style and character and it probably serves him well in the world of political journalism.  But in a selling situation, prospects will often feel intimated with rapid fire questions delivered like a cop interrogating a suspect.  Watch your tone.  Be careful of the number of consecutive closed ended questions you use. Balance them with open ended questions. If you don’t,  they’ll feel badgered and will clam up.

Lesson #2: Don’t Interrupt

Did you notice this? O’Reilly interrupted Obama about twenty times in the fifteen minute interview.  This is not an exaggeration. Watch the interview and see for yourself.  http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/02/06/foxs-bill-oreilly-interviews-president-obama-before-super-bowl/

From a selling perspective, constant interruptions impact the flow of information. The content becomes fragmented and disjointed.  It is difficult to evaluate an answer when that answer is incomplete.  Regrettably, sales reps tend to interrupt a good deal which suggests they are less interested in the answers and more interested in going through the motions of questioning.

At another level, constant interruptions are disrespectful and rude. It says to the prospect, “I really don’t care about your reply.”  How Obama managed to stay polite and not snap at O’Reilly is beyond me.  A prospect would simply have hung up.

Lesson #3: Learn to Listen to the Content

Even without the interruptions, I am not certain if O’Reilly was really listening to Obama’s answers.  O’Reilly seemed more intent on asking his questions for the sake of asking his questions than for the information Obama provided in return. It was as though he had the questions written on his clip board and he was going to ask them no matter what the reply.  Survey-like. The answers were really not of interest.

This is very typical in sales situations. Some sales reps will ask a question, stop speaking, and then simply wait for their turn to speak again.  Instead of processing what they have heard and then responding accordingly, they plough onto to the next question whether it is appropriate or not.

In selling it is easy enough to ask questions but it is not so easy to evaluate the answers.  Effective questioning must be fluid and dynamic.  The answers provided by the client should determine the next question.  While it is important to have questions prepared, you must flexible to the moment and adjust to the information provided.

Lesson #4: Speak Less

It was also obvious that O’Reilly was positioning himself as a hard-nosed journalist by asking tough questions. No problem with that. But at times, O’Reilly was inserting his opinions and views. It seemed to be less about Obama and his policies and administration and more about O’Reilly’s need to be seen as a tough no-nonsense  guy.

I understand that too but in the world of selling your commentary is not needed nor wanted. Speak less. Listen more. Learn more. Understand more.  Only when your client is speaking will you gather insights, knowledge and perspective. Everything you need to sell lies deep inside your client. When you are speaking, they are not. It’s hard to discover needs when your mouth gets in the way.  Let them articulate. Let them expound.  You can make that happen by zipping your lips.

Lesson #5: Understand the value questioning

What was the net result of the interview?

I don’t know about you but by the end of interview I doubt if anyone (the viewing audience and O’Reilly) was further ahead.  What possible value did the TV viewers really derive?

All we got was fragmented sound bytes from Obama. I, for one , certainly did not get a comprehensive feel for anything from the Middle East to healthcare or to the Super Bowl game.  If this were a selling situation, the sales rep would NOT have been any further ahead.  In fact, he would have probably been further behind because the questioning process was a disaster.

You see, the whole point of questioning is to build rapport, to gain an understanding of your buyer, of the needs and requirements.  It should create value for you and it should create value for your client.


NOTE:  I am a Canadian so I have no political interest in the interview one way or the other. I could care less.   I have no ‘agenda ‘ except  to use the interview as a learning lesson.   Here’s the lesson: questioning is the MOST important skill you can possess when it comes to selling.  Learn from these lessons and don’t  blow your opportunities.

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7 Steps to Better Listening …and Better Tele-Sales Results

The telephone has one major drawback when it comes to selling: you can’t see your client.

This makes communicating somewhat more challenging.  For example, with face to face selling, body language constitutes about 55% of the message. What this means to those of us who use the phone is that we MUST be a better listener. In effect, you need to overcompensate to pick up the nuances and details of the calls you make. Using the acronym SPECIAL here are 7steps to improving your listening skills

1. Stop – When you make or take a call, stop whatever you are doing and give 100% of your attention to that call. Stop overlapping. Stop toying with your computer. Stop finishing up that last proposal or quote. Turn your head away from the everyday distractions in the office and focus on the call. Period.

2. Prepare – Be prepared for the call. Complete a pre call planning sheet before you pick up the phone so you know precisely what you want to achieve and how. In particular, list key question that you want to ask. This simple step will help you listen more careful because you won’t be thinking “What do I ask, say or do next?”

3. Evaluate – On the phone clients communicate on two levels: the words they use and the tone they apply. In fact, on the phone tone accounts for about 84% of the message content. Listen and evaluate for interest (buying signals), listen for doubt or uncertainty (objection), listen for confusion or disinterest (pauses).

4. Concentrate – Actively listen. This means when you ask a question, zip it. Let the client answer. Let him elaborate. Don’t interrupt. Listen for the key points that he is making. Avoid the temptation of preparing your rebuttal in your mind. Avoid the temptation of developing your next question instead of hearing the answer that is being given.

5. Investigate – Interactively listen. This means asking questions AFTER you’ve heard the answer. Use questions to clarify, verify and confirm information. If you are not certain of something, ask about.

6. Acknowledge – One of the best ways to listen is to summarize what you’ve heard and repeat it back to the client. “So Greg, if I understood correctly your company is …” If you’ve got something wrong the client will tell you. If you are on track they’ll confirm it. Either way YOU look good and you’ll sell more.

7. Log it – Put another way: listen with a pen in hand. Take notes. Jot things down as you ‘actively’ listen so that you can go back and clarify. Note taking seems to be a lost art. Use a pad of paper or better yet, your pre-call planning sheet to record key point.

Listening is not that difficult if you follow these seven steps. And if you listen well, you’ll sell well. So just do it!

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