Friday, July 25, 2008

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Why would you start with Stephen Covey's 5th habit, if there are 4 others to be read first?
Well...good question.

It appears to me that listening skills are easily overlooked in most sales trainings.
So - let's talk about that.

Salesmen pitching their value proposition in 45 seconds from the moment their prospect picks up the phone aren't the salesmen that will be successful in this era. In today's environment, it is increasingly more important to be a consultant to your customer than before. Without doubt, understanding your customer's problems, and solving their pain is the best road towards building a long-term mutually valuable relationship.

Seen in that light, asking the right questions, and listening to your customer are more important than pitching your value prop. The great thing is: you learn more about the customer, you receive information you didn't know perhaps, rather than shooting off a well-rehearsed pitch, that you've certainly heard yourself doing hundreds of times before.

Stephen Covey claims that communication is the most important skill in life.
I agree - in fact, by default communication is the only way to break solitude.
As a professional, as an individual, as a partner, a parent, in any environment really.

You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. but what about listening?

What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right? If you're like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across.
And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you're listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely.

So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your past experiences and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Do any of the following sound familiar? "Oh, I know just how you feel. I felt the same way." "I had that same thing happen to me." "Let me tell you what I did in a similar situation." Because you so often listen autobiographically, you tend to respond in one of four ways:

Evaluating: You judge and then either agree or disagree.
Probing: You ask questions from your own frame of reference.
Advising: You give counsel, advice, and solutions to problems.
Interpreting: You analyze others' motives and behaviors based on your own experiences.

Trying to relate or sympathize by drawing on your own experience isn't mal-intended, and in some cases another person specifically asks for help from your point of view or when there is already a very high level of trust in the relationship. However, listening to the person without bias, as difficult as it may sometimes be, is the only way to true understanding.

Are you listening?
Bueller... anyone?

Monday, July 21, 2008 - UPDATE

Your connection with Salesguru is much appreciated!

Since inception, I have received requests to connect on our LinkedIn Group from India to Canada (how did that happen?), and I am very excited (amazed?) to see that some enjoyed the blogs so far. Feel free to invite anyone you think may have an interest. The more the better.

The full-fledge website launch is still scheduled for Q4 this year. As mentioned before, the blog will be complemented with book reviews, a forum, and more exciting stuff for salesmen (m/f), and sales management.

One last comment: many thanks to you for telling others about - the more people join, the more content we can publish, tailored to your wishes. Let me know what you like, and what you don't like, or what you think should be added to make the website more interesting and fun. Sales manager Jakob Thusgaard ( - also check out his training schedules if you like to exercise/athletics) posted an excerpt from one of the blogs, and it is very cool to see that he - as experienced as he is in sales management and motivational stuff - liked it too. Keep those coming! ;-)

More content later!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We become what we think about

When asked as a kid, you would say you wanted to become a fireman, a policeman, or a rock star. As a kid you imagined becoming what you thought was a great thing to be.

As an adolescent or young adult, life shows some more complications, but also more opportunities, and you pursue what you want to become with greater detail and...sense of reality.

The truth is that we become what we think about.

Did you ever go to a high school reunion?
Beforehand, you wondered what your classmates had 'become'.
And somehow, as if you knew, most had become what you thought they would, with a few exceptions here and there. In generalities they had become 'just a white-collar worker', a journalist, a musician, a red-cross non-profit doctor, a banker, comedian, or salesman.

They lived what they thought about, and radiated what they thought about long time ago already, and they finally became what was destined to happen.

We have become salesmen.

And within that realm of excitement for most (and probably disappointment for some), there's another truth:

The (financial) results of this job are so straight forward that they are great for comparison against your peers. You are great if you rank with the top performers, and you will need to step it up if you aren't. It's a cruel truth for the latter, but an exciting long-term confidence boost for high rankers.

Now let's get back to our first statement: we become what we think about:

Do you think about making the minimum performance targets? Or do you think about beating the current #1 performer?

Do you think of the problems you could have if you don't hit your sales, and commission isn't enough to cover your rent, or do you think of the 911 you always wanted to buy?

Here's the difference between the average and the great.
Dream your dreams and think about how you want to become the best you can be.
Picture the dream house, vacation, car or achievements you want to focus on.

Forget about negativity, hurdles, and bad luck.
No-one said it would be easy, and how much fun is it really if you just get what you want without having to really work for it?

Let's make it happen and dial for dollars!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back from vacation - with new insights

Relaxed, refreshed, well-rested, and with renewed personal perspective I have returned from my vacation (in beautiful Spain).

As always, besides the relaxation, a vacation allows you to contemplate, re-seat, plan, and focus on the future. With a different horizon and a different environment it seems easier to see your daily reality with clarity and without bias. Major topics vs. periphery.

And in going through that process, I came to several points of thought, including:
- Where do I want to be a year from now?
- What is my goal? (On a professional, and a personal level)
- Am I doing the things I need to do to reach my goals?
- Is anything distracting me that I should eliminate, for me to be successful?

It makes sense to re-align goals and focus over time by comparing the above answers with the answers you had last year.

In addition, I read the following wisdom somewhere, that I thought was as corny as it is true:
" Happiness is a journey, not a destination "

Interesting if you add that wisdom to your answers.

In other words:
" Live your dreams, and work hard at it, but make sure to have a ball getting there. "

More 'corny' wisdom for you - so true:

- If you ever want to HAVE, you must be willing to DO
- When duty calls, people of character will rise
- Ordinary people can do extraordinary things
- Overcoming insurmountable odds requires courage
- Everyone has their own line to cross, and hurdle to take
- Living with purpose results in a purposeful life



A wise lesson:

1) PREPARATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ARGUMENT; aggression will loose to preparation
5) NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER; you may be surprised by your contemplated weakness
7) PLAY UP LESS IMPORTANT FACTORS; so it will seem bigger when you concede them
8) SEEM MORE BEFUDDLED THAN YOU ARE; your opponent will underestimate you