By Allison O'Brien
Sales is as much about having the right opportunities as it is about handling those opportunities in the right way.
While 60% of companies take a random or informal approach to sales coaching, research reveals that sales training reaps a staggering 353% ROI for the average company. That’s a $4.53 return on every $1 spent! Empowering your sales team with the right tools and quality training that leverages the science of Listening Intelligence is a surefire way to improve close ratios and ultimately advance the company’s financial goals.
The Training Landscape
Companies spend an estimated $70 billion on sales training per year. Most sales training programs available today focus on only one half of the communication equation—speaking—yet 69% of buyers say they wish sales reps would listen to them. With only 13% of customers believing that sales reps understand their needs, it’s crystal clear the missing piece in sales training is listening, not speaking.
One type of training to meet this need helps sales professionals develop Listening Intelligence--the ability to adjust our listening to the people, context, and situation at hand. This training helps sales professionals identify and understand their own default listening preferences, meaning the types of information they tend to tune in to and what they might unintentionally filter out, and it helps sales teams identify the way each individual client filters, analyzes, and interprets the information they hear. By tuning in to the subtle cues that clients provide in the language they use and the types of questions they ask, sales reps can adjust how they share information to speak into those listening preferences and communicate the value of their offering more effectively.
Listening Intelligence training uses the ECHO Listening Profile™, the first and only cognitive-based listening assessment, as the foundational component to improve a sales professional’s self-awareness, and it provides the tools to assess and develop a cutting-edge understanding of a customer’s communication needs.
Identifying the Four Main Listening Styles
Science reveals that our style of listening is a habit rather than a hard-wired trait. Our listening habits are related to what we care about, think about, and speak about, and they influence how we make decisions. It is critically important for sales professionals to understand their own listening habits before trying to diagnose others. Once they have developed deep understanding and self-awareness, they can begin to observe the listening of others. By identifying a prospect’s listening habits, you become one step closer to understanding what influences their decision-making process and the criteria they use when committing to a sale.
While everyone uses all four types of listening to varying degrees, many people tend to rely on a preferred or “dominant” style.
People with a high preference for Connective Listening listen to how information will affect others. As the most relationally oriented listeners, they are primarily concerned with how well your product or service will benefit others, usually meaning their fellow employees, their clients, or other constituents they have a personal investment in. You can often recognize Connective Listeners by their tendency to ask you about yourself and engage in friendly conversation before getting down to business. They tend to appear engaged by nodding, leaning forward, and making eye contact. If you have connected on a personal level, this type of listener may leave you with the impression you’ve closed the deal. However, if you get co-opted by the rapport you’ve built and haven’t done your due diligence or asked enough qualifying questions, you may leave out critical information that would allow the buyer to make the most informed decision. You might end up surprised to find the answer is a “no” despite feeling good about the initial interaction.
By contrast, highly Reflective Listeners will filter communication mainly through their own interests and purposes. They want to know what this purchase will mean for them and will tend to carefully consider information against their own knowledge and experience. They tend to consider very carefully everything being said, and they may not say very much, which can convey the false impression that they’re not interested in buying from you. In reality, they’re actively asking themselves things like, How will I integrate this solution? Will this be an improvement over the product we tried to incorporate last year? If I become an advocate for this and it benefits the company, might that lead to a promotion? You can often recognize Reflective Listeners by a more reserved or held-back demeanor. They can appear distant, almost disengaged, because they tend to lean back with arms crossed and gaze past the speaker versus making direct eye contact. Because of this, sales professionals can be left with the impression that this is no longer an active prospect and might even forgo following up based on these false perceptions and assumptions. However, it certainly pays to reach out, as a highly Reflective buyer may reconnect to share their thoughts or questions, which are often quite thoroughly considered by that point. You might be surprised when you get a “yes” when you thought the deal was dead.
Highly Analytical Listeners listen for detailed facts and quantifiable data. They make decisions based on accurate, thorough information and focus on available resources and best practices for integration. They are not swayed by a sales rep’s charisma but review information for merit and application to the situation at hand without applying personal bias to the decision-making process. You can often recognize Analytical Listeners by their tendency to ask very specific, detailed questions while leaving emotions out of the mix. Sales professionals are often disrupted by buyers with a dominance in Analytical listening, as they often don’t have a need to build rapport prior to getting down to business. Make sure to bring metrics and data to your demo because if you share information you can’t back up with validated sources, you will likely lose credibility and the sale.
Conceptual Listeners tend to focus on “big picture” ideas and possibilities. Entrepreneurs and creative marketers frequently demonstrate this type of listening and are apt to get excited about how your product can help shape their organization’s future. You can often recognize Conceptual Listeners by their readiness to ideate about and explore any unique and far-reaching qualities your product brings to the table. Conceptual Listeners tend to do this with ease, as they experience brainstorming as an enjoyable end in itself. Even if they don’t see a fit for themselves as a buyer, they may continue to ideate for your benefit, suggesting ways you might improve your product or certain applications you hadn’t thought of.
Closing the Sale Using Listening Intelligence
While everyone wants to hear reasoning that will support their buying decision, deciding the type of reasoning that will be your primary focus is much easier when you understand whether you are engaging with a Connective, Reflective, Analytical, or Conceptual Listener.
Paying attention to the trends in prospects’ conversations provides valuable insight into the type of information they are listening for and what influences their buying criteria. If you’re ready to change the way your sales team interacts with prospects through listening, contact us to find out how we can help them gain a deeper understanding of Listening Intelligence through our innovative cognitive assessment, custom-tailored sales training, and one-of-a-kind Certified Practitioner Training Program. We can assist you in building better customer relationships through enriched communication and collaboration, leading to higher-yield deals and accelerated growth.