My role at Print Audit is in Sales but I, like you, am also frequently a potential customer. What am I listening for when you try to sell me something? It’s not always the same thing. Sometimes I’m listening for things that can help me to resolve a problem and alleviate pain in my life. At other times, I am listening for inspiration such as suggestions for a good movie to take my kids to on a Friday night. My point is that my buying decisions (and those of my kids), aren’t always based on the same criteria. Only by listening carefully will you know how to sell to me effectively.
How can you improve your listening skills? I’m sure you have lots of relationships outside of work to get some practice. I’m hopeful that you listen to your kids and your spouse and even your neighbors. When I was a teenager I had a hard time listening to my parents but the older I get the more that changes. Wherever you learn how to listen in your personal life is transferable to the business world. Sales is all about relationships and good relationships are based on good listening.
What’s bothering your existing and potential customers? What specific business problems are driving them crazy and which pieces of your offering can help out? By listening more and talking less you be seen as much more genuine and consultative. Life (and purchasing decisions) is happening in the here and now and only by being present will you have a chance of improving your selling success.
Good listening can be jump-started by asking good questions. I recently interviewed several of our Premier Members and posed the following question: “What is the biggest benefit that you see from being a Premier Member?” One response really got my attention: “It’s the differentiator, so please do not bring on any new Premier members in our marketplace.”
What did they mean by differentiator? By listening carefully I was ready to ask them just that. Their response was enlightening: “We have more data points and more meaningful data than our competitors can provide and our customers take notice. The quarterly reviews we provide using your software have brought us closer to our customers than ever before and it’s helping us to win more business.” We can even let the assessment continue to run throughout the life of our agreement with them.”
I asked another Premier member the same question; what they felt was the biggest benefit of the Premier program; and got an entirely different answer: “We don’t even charge our customers for the software. The power of good data is helping us to win significantly more hardware deals with better margins. Our business is growing because the Print Audit data helps to educate our customers’ buying decisions more.”
“What’s bothering your existing and potential customers? What specific business problems are driving them crazy and which pieces of your offering can help out? By listening more and talkingless you be seen as much more genuine and consultative.”
Not all of the answers to our questions are positive. We should be asking questions and listening to answers that also help us to improve. Print Audit releases more software updates than any other provider because we take our Premier members’ input seriously and use it to always seek improvement. We listen because we believe in “Kaizen”, or continuous improvement. RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) software providers like Print Audit are in a race without a finish. Only by listening carefully can we continue to improve our software in order to help our members to grow their businesses like never before.
Now that you’ve taken the time to listen to me it’s my turn to do the same! What examples do you have when listening to your customers led to big wins? What tips do you have for becoming a better listener? Please post your comments, I promise that I look forward to reading (and listening!) to your advice.