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Why Is Active Listening So Powerful?

Authored by Josh Schwartz on May 28, 2015

I’d have to say I agree with 99.9% of the insights in Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson’s book, “The Challenger”, but not all of it. They state that the best of the 5 different types of sales reps are challengers. More specifically they state that  “a Challenger is defined by their ability to do three things — teach, tailor, and take control—and to do all this through constructive tension.”

So the easy takeaway is that the best sales reps know how to teach, how to tailor the conversation to their prospects and to take control of the conversation. The order of operations on these attributes is debatable, but it sounds simple enough.

I, however, believe that there is one piece missing! How can we tailor and teach without first listening to our future customers? That is the first thing we need to do as sales reps. Our future customers don’t want to hear about you, they want to hear about themselves. At the beginning of the conversation, step 1 should be to get out of the way and ask questions to get your future customer to start opening up. Before you pitch, before you teach, before you take control…ASK GOOD QUESTIONS!

For instance- “How does your sales process affect your ability to forecast?”, “Is this processes reflected in your CRM?”, “Tell me what a typical deal looks like for your company?”, “Size?”, “Sales cycle time?”

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What do you call your sales stages?”  The reason being, that later in the conversation I can use the names of their stages to explain our product. By doing so, I’ve related to the future customer and have told them that I’m listening and am starting to get the wheels turning in their head about how life will be better with TopOPPS. That’s usually the point they go from “Do I actually need this?” to:


For us, and for any startup company that’s creating a new market or trying to adjust the culture of an organization, this is big. Innovation isn’t always easily accepted and changing how people think and operate is extremely difficult. That’s the real jewel of active listening, you don’t have to change how people think. By letting your future customers answer your leading questions, they will often come to the target conclusions or find the real solutions to their pains (your product/services) on their own.

Now that your future customer has come to their own conclusions and found their own pains from your leading questions, this is your opportunity to completely take control, tailor and teach to how your product alleviates those issues. In short, this is where becoming a Challenger really takes care of business.

In closing, don’t gloss over the importance of active listening! Ask questions! Then take the information you’ve received to tailor your presentation and teach your future customer, all while maintaining control of the conversation.

But hey, I’m just sharing what makes me successful. Do you disagree? Start the conversation on twitter.


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