How To Increase Sales By Tackling These 3 Listening Roadblocks
In our recent article series, 5 Success Mindsets for a Successful Sales Strategy article, we’ve been discussing the strategic value of asking questions that spark much-needed innovation, during these uncertain times.
In my excitement, I posted this meme on LinkedIn – “Change your questions, change your future.”
One response, in particular, reminded me to double-check my own “listening roadblocks,” even as this massive snowbank slowed down the trip for this Beetle!
Create Breakthrough Sales Growth Results
John Ramstead, an admired coach and colleague, responded with, “Ask questions, then care about the answer.”
His comment was a wake-up call for me. Yes, asking the right questions is important.
And, thank you, John, so is listening, and caring about the answers!
With that ah-ha, I started thinking about Listening Roadblocks.
“Listening well requires setting aside our egos and agendas and being vulnerable. It requires courage.” ~ Danita Bye, Millennials Matter (p 190)
Strengthen Leadership Development by Talking Less and Listening More
In our heads, we know that the talk-less-listen-more skillset is important when leading, managing, and coaching our sales managers and salespeople. We know that, when we don’t listen, really listen to them, we are stuck with a disengaged team. And, we will be frustrated. Our grand plans for success won’t happen.
I feature listening prominently in Millennials Matter . In fact, I mention the word listen or listening 81 times! Yes, that’s a lot of material on listening. However, it’s that important to our success. And, that’s why I wrote Millennials Matter as a leadership “How-To” resource and not just another leadership book.
I believe that listening well might become your biggest ally in gearing up for a successful 2021. Ask the right questions. Then listen strategically. You’ll gain the insights you need to chart breakthrough growth plans for your business and sales.
Listening Roadblocks that Sabotage your Sales Growth
So, we know in our heads what good, productive listening behavior looks like. But, what stops us on our journey? What roadblocks do we encounter?
I believe the following insights will inspire you to overcome these roadblocks and develop your ability to listen strategically….and get through any snowbank, regardless of the height and width of the snowbank.
Sales Growth Roadblock #1
Listening doesn’t come naturally to all of us, does it? Well, at least not for me. I got reprimanded more than once, all the way from grade school to university, to stop talking and to pay attention! Yet, it’s a skill to master.
Pipeline Review Questions to Boost Sales Growth
Imagine asking these critical questions during your Pipeline Review Meeting…
- What is the pipeline telling you about your Q1 sales?
- What needs to happen to your sales pipeline in the next 120 days?
- What are three specific actions you can take in the next 90 days that will have a significant impact on your pipeline?
…and then not listening and digging deep into the answers? It would be disastrous! You won’t have the needed insight to strategically lead, manage, or coach your sales manager or salesperson. Your “brilliant advice” will be off-track and useless.
Territory Review Questions to Strengthen Your Sales Strategy
Or, imagine asking these questions to your sales manager during an upcoming Territory Review…and then not listening:
- What might you do to speed up closings?
- What might need to happen to improve conversion ratios?
- How might your team rethink to create a more effective sales process, given the current reality?
- What might you do differently to stop losing business to the competition?
- What might you do to improve the accuracy of the pipeline forecast?
The answers your sales managers and salespeople give, provide important clues to how you can coach them in drafting step-by-step action plans on how to increase sales. Skills gaps and sales competency challenges will be revealed…but then you need to listen well.
Sales Growth Roadblock #2
Next, it feels so natural and intuitive to share our vast amounts of knowledge, wisdom, and insight that we’ve gained over the years. The problem is that we often want to share it ALL in one single coaching conversation!
However, when we do, eyes glaze over. It’s a sign – they are disengaged. We’ve lost their attention!
Why? Because they’ve lost trust.
Remember the stats? As sales leaders, we’ve probably sat through countless leadership development courses, in addition to our sales training courses. We know that trust is at its lowest when we talk 75 – 80 percent of the time and listen only 20 – 25 percent of the time.
That is why many of us need to have this quote from Zig Ziglar as a huge poster in our office, or as a reminder that pops up every day on our phones…
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
And, the way we care, is by listening, really listening to their answers to our strategically asked questions.
Sales Growth Roadblock #3
Personally, I believe a third roadblock is digitization and technology. It seems as if technology and other digital demands are keeping us away from investing in our most valuable resource, our people. We are prioritizing efficiency over effectiveness.
Yes, I know that we all have jam-packed schedules. It seems impossible to squeeze this into the calendar. Well, with these practical steps, you can do it all – get the work done while listening well!
- Sit in on the Midyear Territory Reviews, and ask clarity-provoking “what” questions. Now listen carefully to the answers. You’ll figure out if your salespeople have a future-focused mindset to implement your strategies for next year. Or are they still stuck in what happened in the past?
- Attend the upcoming Q1 Territory Reviews. Ask questions that start with, “How might you…” or “What might you…” The word, “might” strengthens the innovative mindset. This mindset is critical to overcoming obstacles and challenges.
- Schedule coaching conversations so that you can ask questions that include the word “I.” This stimulates the ownership mindset. An Ownership Mindset invites salespeople to stop making excuses and start searching for creative solutions.
- Bring your dreams to life, with action. Use questions that include the word “do.” Then develop a plan that involves concrete actions where your sales leaders can measure their success.
- Use the Success Mindset Analysis tool. Your sales manager and salesperson will get an accurate understanding of realities, both external and internal. This truth helps them build realistic optimism. That’s when they start asking, “How might I make a positive difference (in my account, with my client, etc.)
I talk about all these in my 5 Success Mindsets Series. Check out the entire series here.
As a leader of people, always remember that it’s more about effectiveness than efficiency. And that involves listening strategically to what your salespeople are saying.
Watch this short video on the importance of being a Listening Leader:
Use this Resource to Strengthen your Leadership Development
Your leadership matters. You are a leader of people. For more insight into the daunting leadership challenges of digital disruption, check out How to Be an Engaging Leader in a World of Robotics, AI, and Digitization.
Listening Well will Boost your Sales Growth
We face big problems in our businesses, our families, and our world. We’ll only thrive with leaders who are willing to listen strategically. Listening well drives our curiosity and the insightfulness of our questions.
Imagine what might happen when you listen strategically to your salespeople. How might the quality of your territory and pipeline reviews improve? What insights might you gain during the next sales meeting?
Commit to strengthening your strategic listening skills so that you can avoid the roadblocks that stifle your sales growth. It will be a critical sales growth strategy for 2021.
“Change your questions, change your future.”
Remember: Listening is the tailwind that gets you and your salespeople to where you want to go.
Leadership Sales Growth Lesson:
To deal successfully with the massive disruption that 2021 holds, make strategic listening a priority in your sales growth strategy.
Leadership Sales Growth Question:
What might you do to strengthen your strategic listening skills as you’re coaching and mentoring your salespeople?