Conventional wisdom is often wrong. In our first installment, we discussed selling past the close.

Our next conventional wisdom target is “selling is listening”, “two ears one mouth”.

OK, I admit, listening is an absolutely critical component of selling, there’s no getting around that. Being able to diagnose your customer’s environment, hot buttons, pain points, priorities, and more is a critical skill.

But listening is not enough! You will need to educate yourself outside the conversation and you will need to be ready to speak.

Here is how you can do that.

Be an expert on your product

There is no escaping this. You must be passionate about the product or service you are selling and you must be better informed about it and its application than anyone else on the planet. That should be your goal and you should always be striving for it. You can listen all you want, but if you have a feeble understanding of how and where your product fits, you will waste countless hours chasing down answers, and worse, chasing opportunities that are doomed to fail eventually given the poor solution fit.

Handling objections

Hard to overstate the importance here. In nearly every sales cycle I have ever been associated with, there are at least a few legitimate objections that are lobbed from the customer. These objections often take the form of well-constructed reasons that the customer can’t adopt your offering today. In my experience, the moments when these objections are raised, are often some of the most critical in the entire sales process. Being prepared for these inevitable moments requires a substantial amount of preparation and experience. It’s not about having a pre-canned rebuttal for every possible objection, but rather, knowing so much about how your product/service can work in a wide variety of situations, so that you can leverage that knowledge and refer to it with your customer. Listening will only get you so far here, you will need to respond.

Be an expert on your customer

Finally, the more you know about your customer’s business, products, competitors and the decision maker and influencer job functions, the more apt you will be to craft win-win solutions. Listening can augment this of course, but coming to the table with much of this knowledge beforehand makes your job much easier.

Listening is an important input to selling, but studying and using that mouthpiece strategically is going to make the difference as well. At Compile, we insist that our sales reps be excellent listeners and be willing to tell prospects when our solution is not a fit based on what they learn. However, we also demand that our reps be qualified to offer strategic guidance well beyond our products, and that means bringing expertise to every discussion and being willing to assert it at the right time as well.