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Listen, Don't hear- A.R.T. Your Way to Sales Success


Listen, Don't hear- A.R.T. Your Way to Sales Success

By Todd Brian Natenberg

Author of the just released book, "I've been in sales for 10 years! Now what?" A (NEW) Playbook for Skyrocketing Your Commissions


There is no better way to distinguish yourself from your competitors than to summarize your prospects' needs- out loud- after probing, and prior to your presentation.

When you summarize, you prove you listened, not that you heard.

What's the difference?

Hearing is simply not being deaf. But listening entails a three-step process.

At TBN Sales Solutions, we call it the A.R.T. method: Acknowledge, Repeat and Take action.


Have you ever had a one-way conversation where you do all the talking? Isn't that just as annoying as when someone else does all the talking? You feel like you are talking to a brick wall, don't you?

Then, when you address the situation, what's the other person's response? "I heard you. What was I supposed to say? I didn't know it called for a comment," they say.

What the other person doesn't understand is that you wanted acknowledgement. You needed to understand they heard your words. Ways to acknowledge include nodding your head with direct eye contact, positive or negative facial expressions depending on the situation and verbal comments, such as "I understand" or "I know what you mean."


Typically, when salespeople acknowledge a prospect, they feel they've listened. But this is just the first step. The second step is actually repeating what was just said to ensure you interpreted it properly. Don't dissect every sentence. Just hit the high points. If you did not get every point down, repeat what you remember.

By hearing you repeat it, the prospect will be so impressed that what you leave out won't matter.

Take Action

This proves you truly understand the prospect's needs. What you say or do next must be a direct response to the answers provided. Many sales reps have lost deals or won deals at this step. Here's an example of what not to do:

During my telecommunications corporate training days, a rep and I probed one prospect with good questions. We reached the point where the prospect told us, "What really matters to me are reliability and customer service. Price is not the issue. If you can guarantee me your company can provide these two criteria, you will earn my business."

The rep's response was, "Great, let me show you how we can save you money. By switching to us, we will lower your rate." The meeting ended 10 minutes later. We never heard from the prospect again.

Here's how a top-notch summarization may sound:

"Okay, Prospect So-and-So. Let me summarize what you said. You have been with the company for 10 years. You came here from Idaho because you found it to be a great opportunity. One of the key reasons for the company's success is customer service. Your company sells to small and mid-sized businesses. You are the one who would 'sign on the dotted line.' What is important to you now is billing, customer service and a competitive price. Is there anything I left out?"

"No? Great. Now, let me explain how based on your situation, we can help."





Consultant language vs. sales language- What do you tell yourself?

"The choices we make determine the life we lead"- Danny Devito character in motion picture, Renaissance Man

In the world of sales, a better expression is, "The language we speak determines the sales we make."

Do you truly consider yourself an extraordinary consultant or a salesperson? We say it often, but it's just as important. There is no difference. It's about not just how others perceive you, but how you perceive yourself.

I recently met with a client who before he invested with me would indicate he wasn't a good salesperson because he didn't like being pushy, was about developing relationships and just wasn't "aggressive" enough. 

With that kind of internal talk, he was absolutely right, he wasn't a good salesperson. More importantly, he wasn't an extraordinary consultant. There is no doubt his self language translates to when he speaks to customers.  It's the old expression, "If you don't believe in yourself, how will anyone else?"

If you truly believe that what you do makes a difference in the world- and it does!  change your self talk.

Do doctors ever apologize for what they do? Do attorneys ever ask you to meet with them when it's convenient for them?  If you say, well they are professionals and you are just a salesperson, to that I say, bah humbug.

My two word definition of selling: Helping others.  

What you do matters. You may not be doing heart surgery, but providing value to others- whether in phone service, telecommunications, real estate, financial planning, printing materials, mortgages, photocopiers or payrolls is tremendously honorable. 

Another term for "increasing productivity," "increasing efficiency," or "impacting the bottom line"?

Improving the quality of life. Now, that's something to be proud of.



Keep it simple silly


Keep it simple silly

Make it easy for people to buy and they will. Make it harder to buy and they won't.

The larger the sale, the more complicated the sale, the more essential it is that you keep it simple.  But ease of the sales process goes beyond not making a big deal out of what indeed may be a big deal.

For instance, one of the biggest incorrect myths about selling technical services to technical people is that you must be technical with them to earn their trust. Not true at all. As more than one CIO said to me during my days selling educational technology and telecommunications, "I don't need you to explain how it works. I know that. I need you to tell me why I should care and how it's going to make my life easier.:

Gee, sounds like the client wants us to talk in benefits, don't they? But you say if they speak technical, you must get technical to be credible.

Try this on the next technical discussion with a client, "Look, I can get just as technical as you may or may not need me to be. I can talk the talk and give you the lingo. But at the end of the day, isn't what really matters to you and your colleagues, how I can improve your productivity to impact the bottom line?"

- Todd Brian Natenberg