All sellers need to develop elite level listening skills. Advice from Connections 18 keynote Richard Mullender

All sellers need to develop elite level listening skills. Advice from Connections 2018 Keynote Richard Mullender.

We were delighted to welcome back Richard Mullender as the closing keynote at Connections 2018.

A former hostage negotiator and Lead Trainer at the National Hostage and Crisis Negotiation Unit at Scotland Yard, Richard has more than 25 years’ experience working in the London Metropolitan Police, and has built his career on developing elite-level listening skills.

What he shared with the Connections 18 audience surprised, entertained, and challenged conventional wisdom in equal measure.

The importance of listening to customers

His fundamental premise that listening is the fuel of all communication – that you don’t understand customers by talking, you understand them by listening – is a lesson we can all learn from. Start really listening to customers Richard says, and you’ll be armed with all the information you need to build a relationship, solve a problem or close a deal.

After all, people cannot help but give themselves away, divulge a secret, or sound out their views and opinions, wants, needs and wishes. If you stay on their agenda and listen with your full attention the clues are always there, he says.

So what can sellers do to improve their chances of hearing what they need to hear to in order to move a deal or relationship forward?

How to listen actively to what customers are saying

Elite-level listeners listen with heightened awareness. They listen to uncover facts, emotions, motivators, values, beliefs and emotional currency. These clues in turn enable them to persuade, influence, problem solve and sell solutions.

But with so much information out there to listen to, we must get better at sifting through it. So here’s a few best practice customer listening methods:

  • Have an outcome in mind before you engage, in order to focus the mind and ensure you listen out for the right things – the things you need to hear
  • Only engage with those who want to talk to you (those you want to hear) and those who are likely to reciprocate by hearing you as well – talk to the right people
  • Identify levers from facts, emotions, motivators, values, beliefs, currency and worth in order to persuade, influence, manipulate and sell
  • Don’t impose an agenda – listen to what is actually being said, not what you think is being said or interpret what is being said to fit your agenda. Let people tell you about how they like to work, their values and goals. That way you’ll be in the best possible position to reflect these values and beliefs back to them, and act in a way that’s not only desirable to them, but ultimately achieves your own outcome.
  • Don’t ask too many questions – and when you do ask indirect questions only. Indirect questions are the most powerful. Asking direct questions keeps the conversation on your agenda, and can lead to the wrong conclusions. It also gives your intentions away and can limit your research.

Start every conversation with the premise “how can I get this right for you?”

Richard talked a lot about getting it right for the customer and the importance of customer trust, how perception is truth and how trust is everything.

To provide a little context, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a world of seemingly stagnant distrust – not a great environment within which to conduct business. Trust in businesses in the UK fell to 43 percent between 2017 and 2018.

Business is about three things, making money, saving money and protecting reputation. But one thing, betraying trust can damage everything (Richard Mullender).

Conventional wisdom dictates that trust is earned. Richard says this notion is wrong, trust is actually a given. As human beings we are programmed to automatically have trust. Trust is not something you win, but it is something that can be lost quickly.

B2B customers don’t trust sellers and more important don’t want to do business with sellers who push their own agenda and don’t listen.

To move past distrust you need to listen actively to what customers are saying, observe, and understand the customer’s goals, emotions, values, and beliefs.

If you listen with your whole attention you’ll uncover the answers you need to get it right for the customer and deliver an experience they know they can trust.

So to conclude, the big question everyone went away with was “are you listening to your customers”, and hopefully some answers as to how to listen more effectively and build trust in order to boost sales success.

Artesian – the elite level listening tool

Want to sharpen your listening skills? Artesian makes listening at scale and in the right places, easier.

If you want to stop just gathering information and start uncovering truly valuable intelligence and insight take a look at our platform helping 30,000 UK B2B relationship managers listen everyday.