Does Your Culture Encourage Your Sales Team to Listen?

When sales teams listen to their customers, sales numbers will speak for themselves Listening to others is a transformative quality. It strengthens personal relationships. It […]

When sales teams listen to their customers, sales numbers will speak for themselves

Listening to others is a transformative quality. It strengthens personal relationships. It improves ideas and solution-finding. It makes customers feel valued and is a key interviewing strategy to identify customer needs. The question is, does your organisational culture reinforce listening as a required behaviour?

If your people are anxious when giving feedback to managers, if they fear for their jobs when challenging their boss, then the answer is no. If the boss doesn’t listen to his or her sales team, it’s less likely that salespeople will be good listeners in client meetings. A listening culture requires reinforcement in organisational behaviour.

How do sales managers get their people to listen more?

Sales managers must set examples of required behaviours. A ‘do as I say and not as I do’ attitude does not encourage employees to act the way you wish them to. If managers are closed to new ideas and unaccepting of feedback, the organisation can expect its employees to behave similarly. So, how do you encourage a listening culture in your organisation?

Is an anthropological attitude the key?

Anthropologists approach problems and situations with a strong bias toward qualitative analysis rather than quantitative. Instead of experimentation and statistical analysis, they ask questions and measure response. What if your sales managers approached their work the same way? Instead of measuring performance by the numbers, what if they examined style and substance?

This isn’t denying the importance of the numbers, but instead examining how the numbers are achieved. To base all reward and recognition on, say, sales figures alone, does not encourage salespeople to improve their sales techniques and client meeting skills. It doesn’t empower people to engage with clients with an open mind, or to listen and sell to client needs. Instead, data leads the sales meetings.

How to adopt reinforcement in organisational behaviour

Salespeople will follow the lead of their managers. When managers base all their decision-making on hard statistics, salespeople will do the same. If sales managers don’t listen to their people when they wish to discuss clients’ feelings and changing needs, an organisation risks its sales.

The leadership of Kodak was wrapped up in its market dominance, confirmed by its sales. It failed to listen to what its customer base wanted – digital photography. This failure to listen eventually caused Kodak’s collapse.

To encourage salespeople to listen, sales managers must listen. They must be open, truthful and transparent. They give feedback effectively and receive feedback constructively.

Sales managers accept bad news calmly. They don’t close off. This encourages people to be open and honest. It is this transparency that empowers successful brainstorming and ideation. Acceptance of challenging points of view, and managing conflict in the workplace can be liberating for an organisation. It encourages diversity of opinion and results in better solution discovery. You can motivate diverse thinking by rewarding it.

Encourage your people to operate across silos

A great strategy to develop a listening culture is to have your people operate across work silos. Encourage salespeople to spend time with their interdepartmental colleagues in research and development, manufacturing and fabrication, and customer services. Encourage people to discuss their professional challenges, and discuss the impact that each function has on another.

How do you know you have a listening culture?

A listening culture does not explode into organisational culture. It must be developed and reinforced by organisational behaviour from the top down. There are signs that your sales teams are listening internally and externally. These include:

  • More imaginative approaches to problem-solving
  • People are willing to share their ideas and opinions
  • Feedback is encouraged, from team members and customers
  • Salespeople ask questions
  • Empathy abounds

As an organisational behaviour, listening is one of the most critical qualities. To embed it in your sales team’s culture, start small and think big. Ask your salespeople what they think. Then thank them for their input before discussing their ideas.

Eliminate the focus on sales targets. Instead, emphasise the need to listen to customers and really understand them. When sales teams listen to their customers, the sales numbers will speak for themselves.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help to unlock the listening ability of your sales teams.

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