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Can You Really Listen and Really Talk at the Same Time
Michael Boone & Associates Newsletter 
Can You Really Listen and Really Talk at the Same Time
August 24, 2005


Try this with a friend or co-worker: Talk about a meaningful subject to someone while thinking of another subject. Can you do it? Now, ask the other person to talk about something they are interested in while you try to think about something else. Can you do it? The point here is: The person talking does not control where the listener's mind is!!!


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When you are in front of a prospect, have you ever thought about what he is really thinking while you are talking? Could it be that he is really thinking about (and analyzing) what you are saying or is he looking out the window, checking his watch or looking at the phone as though he is expecting a call?

The toughest task a salesperson may have is to “keep the prospect’s mind in the same room as his body.”

Professional sales people know that getting the prospect involved in a meaningful discussion is one of the most important things they can do to have a positive outcome to the sales call. Professional sales people also know that the skills of asking questions are one of the most valuable tools available. They know that the right question asked at the right time will create an Action response

Fundamentally, there are only two kinds of questions: A close-ended Question An Open-ended Question

A close-ended question simply invites the prospect to give a one-word reply, usually just yes or no. No two-way conversation here! In the workshops we conduct it is apparent that 85% of the questions we use when we are on sales calls are closed ended questions. If you listen to the close-ended questions you will soon feel that the sales person is trying to tell the prospect what to do or to trap them. Often we hear questions like “Don’t you use temporary services?” Like they have to justify why they don’t use a service. You may recall in an earlier newsletter we talked about how people resist being told what to do. The trapping question is “ If I could save you money would you be interested?” Who would not like to save money but the prospect feels trapped, especially by a sales person he did not even invite in. You may win the point but you could lose the business.

On the other hand, when you ask an open ended question that you have started with who, what, where, when or how, you are asking your prospect to reply with a narrative answer. What you strive for is getting the prospect to talk about the things that you want them to talk about, namely their need for your type of service. You may have to develop the “layering” technique of questioning. In a future article, we will address the “layering technique” in depth but for this article, we will assume most of you are familiar with it. .

At the risk of seeming somewhat basic here, if you want that prospect with you both physically and mentally, you will want to always make sure he is “in this conversation.”

When you ask a question - how long should you be prepared to wait for an answer?

As I am traveling nationally, and sometimes internationally, in my workshops, I always ask the question “ How long should you be prepared to wait for an answer before you ask another question?” Usually, the response is “forever.” Of course, we know that is an unrealistic response. We encourage you to discipline yourself to wait at least 15 seconds before you speak again. We call this “the power of silence.” As a matter of fact, if you are not prepared to wait at least 15 seconds for an answer to your question, try 10 seconds, if you cannot wait 10 seconds wait 5 seconds. If you cannot wait 5 seconds for an answer then don’t ask the question. Some prospects want to think about their reply before they answer whereas most sales people don’t have to think before answering (since they most likely will already own their answers.) A classic example would be if you asks a sales person “how’s business?” Their immediate response would be
“great.” If you ask your prospect that same question, he typically would want to think about his answer before giving it. This is sometimes unsettling to a salesperson.

To be a professional sales person you must practice the art of asking wide angle, opened questions, learn the layering technique and get the prospect to talk about what you want him to talk about. The key is to get the prospect to talk about his needs. When you listen to his needs he will think you are one of the sharpest sales person he has met and he will start to trust you. So start focusing on the questions you need to ask to get the prospect to talk instead of learning all the right answers so you can tell him what to do. Isn’t building trust one of the best things you can do in building a strong business relationship. More to follow in future articles!