On the surface, listening should be a simple task to complete. You don’t have to do anything except clear your mind and process the words coming out of the other person’s mouth.

Yet, it’s extremely hard for a lot of people to do, myself included sometimes. There seems to be this logic that if you talk enough, you’ve won the conversation, when it wasn’t even a contest.

I was fortunate enough to be invited out to Lawn & Landscape columnist Bruce Wilson’s Higher Ground peer group where listening was the focus of one of the presentations. The group rotates locations every year with a different member hosting every year. This year, Eastern Landscape Management in Stamford, Connecticut, was the host, and part of the program was a presentation by sales trainer Marvin Montgomery.

Montgomery said the key component of a salesperson’s job is to ask and listen. That’s it. Ask, and then sit back and hear what the person has to say.

“Be anxious for nothing,” Montgomery says. “We ask one question and start talking. Settle down.”

And it’s a great point.

Throughout my years as an editor, I’ve had to listen to plenty of my recorded interviews to transcribe them. I’ve heard myself numerous times fumble through a question where I talk and talk and talk. It’s as if the longer I make the question the better the answer will be. But it usually doesn’t work that way.

How many times have you been with a client when an uncomfortable topic like cost comes up, and you begin to ramble? Maybe it’s something you did early in your career, but worked to improve. Or when you are the customer and someone trying to make a sale dominates the conversation by telling you all they can do for you before you could tell them what you want.

As Montgomery pointed out, there’s nothing wrong with that few seconds of awkward silence. In fact, use it to your benefit to take a breath and recollect your thoughts.

“It may seem like an entirety but it’s not,” he says.
There’s nothing wrong with that few seconds of awkward silence. In fact, use it to your benefit to take a breath and recollect your thoughts.

That silence also comes in handy when you are walking the property with a potential customer.

Let the person know ahead of time that you aren’t ignoring them, but you won’t be talking much because you are taking notes.

Before you get to the walk through, make sure you get everyone’s name. The more intent you are on hearing the person’s name, the better chance you’ll remember it. If you forget their name, you already told them they are just another sale.

Chances are if they feel like they are just being sold something, the only thing you’ll hear is a rejection and them moving on to the next company. – Brian Horn