Sales Trap - We Love to Talk, But Need to Listen

My research has clearly shown that, when it comes to selling, the part we're most comfortable with is talking about what we do - explaining our services and how we can help the client.

So what do you think happens in most sales encounters? That's right? we tell 'em what we do.

Problem #1 - Clients don't really want to know what we do.
Not to start with anyway. Usually they first want to know that they can trust us and that we comprehend their situation. They also want to understand 'how' we can help them. This is different to knowing exactly 'what' we do. To achieve this we need to look at what they want to achieve, and what their concerns are.

Problem #2 - When we're talking we're not listening.
It's a fact. People can think many times faster than they talk. This means that when you're talking, your client can think about lots of other stuff (like their next appointment, or your unpolished shoes). So keep your client focused by getting them to do the talking.

Control the sales encounter with questions. By using a structured questioning sequence you can move from initial exploratory questions to high-impact outcome oriented questions. When done properly this creates a harmonious exchange between the seller and the client. It's not a matter of interrogating the client, or forcing them to make a quick decision.

As the salesperson (whether you be a consultant, partner, owner or manager) the overriding temptation is to start explaining what you do. Often this includes mentioning previous clients and interesting outcomes you have achieved. But does the client care? Not always. And not ever if what you are saying is not relevant to them.

The secret to selling like a professional is to listen closely to the client. Find out as much as possible that might be relevant to your service. Ask questions about their expectations. Then when you have that knowledge, discuss only the aspects of your service that have a direct bearing on your clients stated needs. Use this 'inside knowledge' during your presentation to highlight why you are the best choice as service provider.

And when you finish your presentation and need to gain a commitment from the client, ask another question, or suggest the next step. "Would you like to sign the agreement tomorrow?" or "Can we meet next week to finalise these last few issues?"

With a bit of practice you can replace your old sales monologues with a meaningful exchange of information that leaves your client wanting to work with you.

(c) 2004 Stuart Ayling

Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at

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