When I was in Cartagena, Columbia, many years ago, a Navy Seal taught me how to scuba dive. Besides diving, he taught me other significant lessons — but one in particular struck me.
This man worked out every day for at least four hours, doing more than you and I probably do in a month. Daily practice in parachuting, shooting, climbing, and hand-to-hand combat coupled with miles of running. Interestingly, this best-of-the-Navy warrior told me to keep my legs strong. “Shooting and combat probably won’t save me; we hardly ever do that. Our secret is to get in and get out fast. My arms will never save me. A gymnasium physique will never save me. Forget the core, the chest and the gut. What will save me is the ability to get out fast. It’s my legs that will save me. I’m the best combatant in my group, but I don’t care about that. The essential skill, which I work on every day, is running. Running away.”
You are a sales rep. As was true with this Navy Seal, you have many skills. But your secret to a long and successful career is to find, and perfect, the one skill that will save you. Ask your sales manager what she/he thinks is the most important skill you need. Google “Essential sales skills” and study the lists. Many experts mix up skills and qualities. Others mix skills and tasks. Qualities, skills and tasks are by definition different. They may be connected, especially in a sales rep, but they differ.
Skills that get almost unanimous listing by different sales gurus are the skills you have been coached in. The common lists include product knowledge, time management, prospecting, rapport building, presentations, asking questions, handling objections and closing the sale. If you can excel at these skills, you are a good sales rep — no doubt.
But there is one essential skill missing from this list. And it’s the one you should study, practice and become its finest practitioner — listening. If you have trained yourself to be a skilled listener, you have perfected the one talent that will save you.
If you really listen to your customers, they will tell you what they need. Maybe it’s an immediate order; more time to make a decision; a request to come back next week; more information about a product your company doesn’t even carry; peer reviews of a particular product; or even subtle body language that says, “I am not remotely interested in anything you’re telling me.” No matter what your customer is saying or how he or she is saying it, LISTEN.
Venture Capitalist Mark Suster said, “Don’t be a crocodile salesman, big mouth and no ears.” When you talk too much, you are in combat mode. That won’t save this call. When you try to push your agenda on the customer, you’re parachuting, shooting or climbing; we call it scrambling or dancing. It’s not going to work, because you are not listening to your customer.
Skilled listening is, to you, what strong running is to a Navy Seal. It will save you every time.
From MENTOR. June 2017;8(6): 10.