Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just the Facts Ma'am

Well, not quite that impersonal:

Listen Like a Homicide Detective

While listening to a talk show on the car radio I heard a police officer being interviewed. He is the head of the Homicide Unit in his city and was talking about techniques used to question suspects.

One line was so profound and applicable to sales that I kept repeating it so I wouldn't forget it:

"When a suspect is talking, don't do or say anything to cause him to stop."

Wow! So true. And go beyond the surface level to realize the actual danger and potential damage here. It's not just that they stop talking, but what else happens when you've interrupted someone?

That's right; you've psychologically inhibited them from wanting to continue speaking. Do you know someone who dominates a conversation and jumps in with their thoughts before you've finished yours? When they do it enough times, you probably feel, "Oh, why bother? I'll just keep my thoughts to myself."

Just think of all the ways a salesperson causes a prospect/customer to stop talking once they've started on a line of thought, and what we can do instead:

Not responding to an answer with encouragement to continue.

Instead: Listen reflectively. Encourage them with statements such as:

"Go on."
"Tell me more."
"Expand on that."

Following up their statement or answer with an unrelated question or train of thought that gets them off the subject.

Instead: Focus on every statement or answer like it's the tip of the iceberg, and your goal is to travel deeper. Listen with the rapt attention of a kid entranced by a campfire story. Direct your next question to get to the next layer.

Responding to their statement or answer with too much of our own experiences.

Empathy is good, but one-upsmanship is bad ("Well, let me tell you how big a fish I caught!").

Instead: Again, the key is in prompting them to continue. Resist the tendency to share your experiences - you already know those. Think about what you want to learn.

Source: Sales consultant/trainer Art Sobczak (

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