When hearing isn’t listening
The truth is that sometimes we do a superb job of listening; yet, there are other times that we hear and assume we are listening.
Although this activity is something that we have been doing all of our lives, it’s amazing how communication between people can get off track.
During a recent airing of ABC’s prime time program, Shark Tank, an aspiring entrepreneur, a self-proclaimed sales training expert, made a huge blunder. He was asking for $90,000 for a 40.0% stake in his company in order to produce a mobile app for his sales training program. After three of the sharks passed on the deal, one of the two remaining sharks agreed to his offer…. $90,000 for a 40% stake.
At this point, you would have thought that other than reviewing some fine points of the arrangement, done deal, shake hands, pack up and go home. The shark met his initial terms. All signals go. Right?
Well believe it or not, this man lost the deal. He wanted to hear what the last shark had to say. In chasing after what he thought might be another, possibly sweeter offer, he turned his attention away from the deal that he originally wanted. By the way, the last shark passed on the deal.
Needless-to-say, he fell on his own sword, lost the deal and received some good, old fashioned advice from his once prospective buyer.
In sales parlance, this was a classic example of selling past the close– a pretty tough lesson to have to re-learn on national television.
The supposed sales expert lost the deal because he decided not to listen at the most crucial time.
Effective listening goes well beyond hearing what someone says. It is about responding appropriately, being totally focused on the message that is being conveyed and making every effort to be in tune with the speaker.
My guess is our sales expert wanted to make certain that he was leaving nothing on the table. However, a different strategy that might have preserved the deal would have been to ask a question and get the interested shark to talk more.
When asked “would you be willing to sell if…”, the entrepreneur could have answered emphatically, “yes I would; but may I ask you one question before we shake on it.” This approach might have bought him some time without turning his attention away from the prospective buyer.
The question would have allowed time for clarifying a key consideration, possibly eliminated the necessity for further discussion with any other shark or even re-ignited discussion with sharks that initially declined the offer.
Our listening skills impact every interaction with others. It is the foundation of all communication. Bad outcomes can occur when we take our eye of the fundamentals.