Listening Archives

Talk less and sell more


Well, what do you know. There’s an excellent sales and marketing  lesson tucked inside Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Among many other interesting things, this book tells the story of Jon Berghoff.

When Jon was a socially awkward teenager who would hide in the library during lunch he was also a standout salesman of kitchen knives. He earned $135,000 in commissions during his senior year. Two years later he increased his sales territory by 500 percent and trained 90 other sales reps.

How did he do it even though he doesn’t have the stereotypical sales personality?

This is what he says:

I discovered early on that people don’t buy from me because they understand what I’m selling. They buy because they feel understood.

I got to the point where I could walk into someone’s house and instead of trying to sell them some knives, I’d ask a hundred questions in a row. I could manage the entire conversation just by asking the right questions.

A lot of people believe that selling requires being a fast talker, or knowing how to use charisma to persuade. Those things do require an extroverted way of communicating. But in sales there’s a truism that ‘we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionately.’ I believe that’s what makes someone really good at selling or consulting – the number one thing is they’ve got to really listen well. When I look at the top salespeople in my organization, none of those extroverted qualities are the key to their success.

It’s all about listening. A skill that makes you a better human being as well.

By the way, if you or someone you love is an introvert, I can’t recommend Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking enough. It examines introversion from a cultural and historical perspective, with plenty of stories as well. So it’s unlike any other book out there on this topic.

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Two ways to “bathe” your customers

Way back in the day, my first full time job was as a consumer respondent at Parker Brothers games.

I answered questions about the rules to the various games they make (Monopoly, Ouija board, Sorry and so on).

One time an elderly lady wrote a letter requesting a copy of the rules to the game of Sorry because she had lost them.

She then went on for several paragraphs about how sad she was because her husband had died, she was estranged from a daughter, etc. etc. I was so struck by how she poured her heart out to a stranger.

People would often call and ask things like, “The Ouija board says I’m going to die tomorrow. What do I do????”

The way I handled calls like this is worthy of a blog post of its own.

Suffice to say I had to do a tremendous amount of listening to customers about things that had nothing to do about the actual products we sold.

Listening is powerful and effective but how can you use it in your marketing?

I’ll describe two of the ways you can do this.

The first is a listening technique called BATHE that was developed by two doctors as a way to quickly get to the heart of a patient’s story in a busy doctor’s office and also show empathy at the same time.

I’ve used this technique in marketing as well.

For example, I once created a survey that asked questions based on these questions and it received a huge response.

One can use this technique in other ways as well, such as questions you ask on you Facebook fan pages, etc.

Here’s how it works:

B = Background. Ask the question, “What happened to you?”

In marketing, the questions would be something like, “Tell me a little about your background and experience with email marketing.”

A = Affect. Ask the question, “And how does that make you feel?”

Yes, you should ask that question in your business too because as copywriters and marketers it’s very important to know what their dominant feeling is about their problem.

T = Trouble. Ask the question, “And what troubles you the most now?” This helps focus the person’s mind.

In marketing, asking something like, “What is your greatest difficulty with email marketing?”

You’ll get specific answers that will even inspire product ideas sometimes.

This happened to me after creating a survey using these questions.

H = Handling. Ask the question, “And what helps you the most to handle this?” This question focuses the attention on the resources around them that can help them to cope and take action.

In marketing this question can give you an opportunity to follow up by showing what you have to offer them.

E = Empathy. Sincerely express the feelings you experienced as you listened to the other person.

In marketing this would take the form of simple statements like, “I’m very sorry you had difficult with our product” while interacting with a customer.

Or telling a story in your email or web copy that shows you have once been in their shoes.

The second way to listen to your customers is to write emails and blog posts that they want to reply to.

An email is more than an opportunity to get a customer to click on your link.

It’s an opportunity to listen as well. The listening benefits the customer… and you and your bottom line.

If you want to read more about how to use BATHE in your personal life (after all, the great thing about marketing is how these skills can make you a better person too) read my How Listening is Like Prozac post on my personal blog. I have other posts there about listening as well.

And thanks to Doberman Dan for making a video that reminded me I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.

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The power of the forward

You already know how important it is that people open your email and click on the link(s) inside of it.

I’ve written before about the importance of writing emails that people will want to reply to.

Today let’s talk about how to write emails that people will want to forward to their friends.

A couple of years ago I wrote an email for a small niche site.

The only link in the email was below my name, I did no selling in this email. It was a story about a recent snowstorm adventure and I simply thanked them for being on my list.

Over the next couple of weeks dozens of people signed up to my list after I sent this email. All the hits were coming from email.

At first I was confused. The people who received that email were already on my list, so how was it that I was getting so many sign ups?

Then it occurred to me that someone (or several someones) forwarded that email to their friends. These friends enjoyed my story and signed up for my list.

Don’t forget the power of the forward when writing email copy.

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Are your listening ears on?

When my daughter was 7 years old she went through a knitting phase.

A friend taught her to knit and she would curl up on the couch every evening and knit for a little while.

Her first project was a wash cloth. It was made with a mixture of purple and blue yarn.

After she finished it she came up to me at my desk and told me.

I was busy writing some copy and my mind was in another place. I did not hear her at all and she walked away.

A little while later I went to the kitchen and she said to me, with tears, “I showed you my wash cloth and you didn’t even care!”

I felt bad, of course, and gushed about her wash cloth as if it was a masterpiece.

Then we had a little chat about how sometimes my listening ears don’t work properly when I’m working at the computer.

Now…how about you?

Are your listening ears on after you send an email to your customers?

This doesn’t get discussed very often but sending an email is one of the best ways to listen to your customers.

Rather than just focusing on getting them to click on your website, you should also try to write emails that they will want to reply to.

Step back from your balance sheet and statistics once in a while and listen to your customers.

It’s not just good for business. It’s good for you.

After all, the whole point in growing yourself professionally is to become a better person, isn’t it?

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