'We've Been Talking'

As media sellers, we do way too much talking on sales calls. We know we shouldn't, we're told we shouldn't, but yet when that imaginary gun fires, signaling the start of a sales call, our mouth starts running like a sprinter seeking a finish line -- but without a clearly marked course to follow. We figure, as long as we're talking, we're getting closer to the end.

The reality is that many buyers and clients use sales calls to get up to speed on your property so they can figure out how best to categorize it. So they make it easy for you to start talking, which in turn makes it harder to stop.

Asking questions forces your clients to be more engaged, while forcing you to be a better listener. But asking questions for the sake of doing so could come across as obvious. Asking the right questions, however, is both a goal and an art form learned over time. The right questions are the ones that lead your clients to arrive at answers that make your property appear right to them. Like a stockbroker, picking the right questions all the time is impossible, but if you get it right more often than you get it wrong, you will have a great career.

This sounds hard because it is -- so I have no easy answer for you. But I do have three easy questions to arm you with to ensure the ball starts rolling in the right direction with every sales call. But first, a question for you: What's the first challenge your brain must tackle on a sales call? Remembering the names of the people you are meeting with.

How many times have you sat in a meeting and midway through it, you wonder and then doubt you know the names of those sitting with you. That doubt is often followed by the decision to abort this challenge by deciding your pending farewells will not formally include the names of those you just spent time with ("Hey, it was nice to meet you"). Staring at their business cards is a risky move that, surprisingly, doesn't instill as much confidence as you would think -- and by the way, they can see you doing it.

So the first step in activating your listening cells starts as soon as you walk into the reception area. When asked your name as you check in, reply with yours -- but then ask for theirs. No one ever does. Receptionists are people, and they like to hear their own name as much as anyone. By doing this, you send an instant message to yourself to get into an active listening mode.

I will bet you a dollar nine out of ten times you do this, you still won't remember the name of the receptionist. That's OK -- but it will startle you to focus further on the names of the clients you are waiting to see.

Question two arrives when you sit down and exchange cards and pleasantries. As everyone grabs a seat, ask how much time has been set aside for this meeting. As soon as you hear an answer, thank them and let them know you won't need all of it. This immediately paints you as compassionate, while making your clients feel at ease.

So now the sales call "has started," and there is that awkward silence -- who is going to make the first move and control the flow of the meeting? That's the critical moment when we hear a gun go off, signaling the start of the race. Instead of sprinting out of the gate, try this. Breathe, look around the room and into everyone's eyes, and ask, "What would you like to accomplish today?" Allow everyone to have their turn -- and then repeat what they said, followed by "Anything else you want me to cover?"

This third (two-part) question ensures that your clients start talking, which makes you an active listener -- while providing a defined course you can follow to the finish line.

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