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 Never Tell What You Can Ask...
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Sales & Marketing Newsletter
Did You Know?

It's common for people to think of communication in terms of speaking, as in the "gift" of gab. But experts and researchers agree that listening is the most important communication skill.

It's also the most frequently used communication skill, with one study reporting that out of all the time we spend communicating, we spend about 9% writing, 16% reading, 30% speaking, and 45% listening.

Unfortunately, studies also confirm that most of us are inefficient listeners.

The first challenge lies in the fact that, on average, thought-and-processing speed exceeds average speaking speed by three to four times! Thus, due to excess "thought" capacity, our minds tend to wander when we (try to) listen to other people speak.

In addition, most people acknowledge they have had much more formal training in other communication skills (writing, reading, speaking) and also find it more difficult to find programs that might help improve listening.

Studies also show that immediately after listening to a 10-minute presentation the average listener has heard, understood and retained only 50% of what was said. Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50% to a final level of 25% efficiency.

If you'd like to improve your listening skills, here are three ideas based on research conducted locally and at the University of Missouri:

  1. Written preparation before interacting with others reduces distraction. If we're less distsracted by what we want to say or ask next (because we planned ahead), we can focus more on what others are saying.
  2. Ask better questions and the odds are you'll get better answers, which will make it easier to listen.
  3. Note-taking can improve our listening in several ways. First it uses-up some of the excess thinking capacity described above. The act of noting portions of what has been said also improves our memory of the material because we're using multiple senses; plus, we can refer to the notes if we forget some of it later!

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 Selling Quotes
"If people like you, they'll listen to you, but if they trust you, they'll do business with you."
—Zig Ziglar 
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time."
—Thomas Eidson 
"Make a customer, not a sale!"
—Katherine Barchetti 
"Nothing happens until somebody sells something."
—Arthur "Red" Motley 
Never Tell Them Anything You Can Ask Them

In a recent edition of, author Jack Falvey wrote, "Let them talk! Selling is not telling!"

Falvey went on to make the following simple suggestion for improving our success rate when selling:

"It would be a perfect world if we were all good listeners. Some people have even taken listening courses! How about just letting prospects and customers talk a little bit more. You will be amazed at what they will tell you and what you will discover. Increased talking time for customers will bring increased sales for you, and the best way to get customers to talk more is to ask them more questions."

To exemplify his perspective, Falvey went on to share a story about the late Fred Hermann, who was often referenced as the greatest sales trainer who ever lived.

Hermann was a guest on the Tonight Show and was asked, as a world authority on sales, to demonstrate his skills by selling the host a coffee mug that was on the desk.

Hermann began by asking, "What are some of the things you could use this for?"

The host came up with several answers.

Fred then asked, "What would you pay for something like this?"

The host came up with a couple of different price points, and finally stated a figure.

Fred said with a smile, "Okay, you can have it at that price."

Note that in the Tonight Show exchange, Hermann (the seller) never said anything about the product! Instead he made the sale by asking good questions and listening.

A good way to develop this skill is to set a "talk/listen" ratio in advance of all sales calls. In other words, before each sales call or telephone conversation, determine the ideal percentage of time you will talk versus the percentage of time you will listen.

The ratio can vary a depending on each situation and which sales process step is in play — possibly 40/60 during the introductory step, ad 20/80 during the assessment step — but do your best to let the buyer talk at least half of the time. You might be surprised at how this simple habit changes your approach and, even better, at how it impacts your customers and prospects!

Another good idea was concisely summarized by Fred Hermann when he said, "Never tell them anything you can ask them!"

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A Few Quick Seconds…

Here are a couple of related articles from past issues you might have missed, and which generated especially positive feedback:

The Next Step in Communication
One simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will significantly improve your business communication and success level…

Read full article

The Stars in Your Presentations?
Too many presentatons are all about "us" and "what we do!" Consider how much more effective it could be if instead of casting ourselves as the main subjects of our selling presentations we instead made our customers or clients the stars!

Read full article


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Paul Charles & Associates
519 Mammoth Rd - Londonderry, NH 03053
[603] 537-1190