Charles Starrett

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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.

The #1 sales skill is listening

Over the past few weeks we’ve participated in a lot of business-to-business sales calls as a client, and it’s been quite an education. Noticing how different potential vendors show up, how they describe their services and their process, and most of all, noticing how we respond in each conversation.

What we’ve noticed is that those who came to these initial discovery calls to present, talk, and convince are the ones we’ve already crossed off our list of candidates. Those who took the time to listen, ask good questions, understand, and then respond from that place of understanding us are the ones we’re still talking to.

Listening is a core power skill that would have helped all of the sales people who failed. The one who tried to make it look like they knew what my former profession was, and got it wrong, came across as fake and lost my trust. However, if he had asked me what my former profession was, he would have shown a genuine interest to connect.

The one who kept proposing we move the project in a different direction after we explicitly said that wasn’t what this project was about, showed that he would be too difficult to work with. If he had noticed our pushing back, he could’ve stopped and asked more questions, showing us what collaborating with him would feel like.

And don’t get me started about the guy who lacked so much self-awareness that he wasn’t even listening to himself as he made the same point over and over, eating up our time and annoying us in the process.

Making a quality sale isn’t about being clever, or authoritative, or even “adding value.” A sale is built on a foundation of a genuine connection. And you can’t make a genuine connection to another human being if you’re not willing, or able, to listen.

2 August 2022

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