Here’s the big irony in marketing. Even though you’re hyper-focused on your metrics and analytics, the process isn’t about you, it’s about them. Meaning your customers. Sure, you want to sell your product or service. But in order to get what you want, the process can’t be about you. Not anymore.
In his new book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Daniel Pink writes about how to stop telling and start listening.
Truth: The Internet has become the great leveler in business across the board. We’ve gone from information asymmetry to information parity. No longer do salespeople have exclusive access to vital information. All it takes is a quick Google search; this is the era of preference marketing, and the customer holds all the cards. Pink says sales have changed more in the past ten years than in the previous 100.
Not only do we all know the same things, but in the process we have all become salespeople, according to Pink, who says that while officially one in nine Americans works in sales, unofficially, so do the other eight.
While Pink is not selling cars or medical equipment, he is nonetheless engaged in the process of coaxing stuff from others.
“Indeed,” writes Pink, “The vast majority of time I’m seeking resources other than money. Can I get strangers to read an article, an old friend to help me solve a problem, or my nine-year-old son to take a shower after baseball practice?” At some level, we are engaged in nonsales selling. We share interesting images on Facebook. We persuade, we give and we get.
So what’s the big secret to the new selling? It’s listening. That’s right. Shutting up. While traditionally we think of ideal salespeople as extroverts, there turns out to be zero correlation between extroversion and lead conversion. Extroverts don’t listen very well. They tend to overwhelm. New research, according to Pink, puts the big money on a new kind of personality: the ambivert. Neither an extrovert nor an introvert, an ambivert is in between. They know when to speak and when to listen. They know when to push, and when to hold back.
The key to selling in this new reality is understanding how to conduct a conversation. Don’t be one of those hideous car dealers screaming at the top of their lungs; instead, interact with your customers like you actually care about them. Because if you don’t they will know it right away and they won’t give you the time of day.
Pink offers two exercises that will help you become a better listener. The first is borrowed from improvisational theater and is designed to help when a super clear pitch goes awry. Instead of responding, “Yes, but...” respond, “Yes, and....” The exercise forces you to spin the conversation in a positive direction, instead of simply refuting the speaker.
Second, suggests Pink, is a far more challenging but more telling exercise. Upon hearing an important bit of information or a potential client concern, try saying absolutely nothing for 15 seconds. Just look the speaker in the eye and listen. “The idea is that we tend to move too quickly,” explains Pink. “The best sales people know about listening, and one profound way to do that is to slow down.” You may not be able to last the entire 15 seconds, but it will give you a very clear path forward. It’s a path free of tricks, free of black hat SEO techniques, and free of the old bait and switch.
When you shift the focus to your customer, the benefits to your company will be immediate and profound.
Make that your New Year’s Resolution.