I am often asked to identify the biggest/most common mistake made by sales professionals.  My reply is consistent: sales professionals who talk too much and listen too little. I even catch myself doing it from time to time and I TEACH this stuff!  Here's a simple test to help you determine if you might be guilty of this common violation:

  1. In a sales situation, do you typically end up talking more than the prospect?
  2. Do you ever find yourself beginning to speak before the other person has completely finished speaking?
  3. Are moments of silence a rarity on your sales calls?  Do you fill any lulls with words?
  4. With a limited amount of time with a busy prospect, do you typically use that time talking about your products or services?
  5. Do you catch yourself thinking about what you are going to say next, while the other person is still speaking?

You probably answered "yes" to at least one question, and possibly several questions.  Listening is a discipline that is difficult to master, and at times even seems at odds with the very nature of sales.  It is also a skill that is critical for successful selling.

"You were given two ears and one mouth for a reason; use them in proportion."

This is one of my favorite sayings and I use it often.  And while listening twice as much as you talk is certainly a good start, there will be times you need to listen even more.  When Einstein was asked how he would spend his time if he had an hour to save the world, he replied, "I would spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and five minutes solving it."

To meet the customer's needs, you must first understand their problem.  Understanding comes by asking questions and listening, not by talking!