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Habits of Hyper-growth Sales #1: Listen to Understand, not to Respond

(this post originally appeared on LinkedIn here)

Sustained hypergrowth in sales is only achievable via a high-frequency loop of invention, optimization, and scaling. Getting stuck on what works today is the recipe for slowing growth tomorrow.

The first step to invent is to listen not to respond, but to understand.

It all starts with the customer. What are the obstacles preventing them from adopting your offering at scale? By when will this become effective? How can you overcome this together?

Influential people are purpose-driven and common purpose is the ultimate fuel for growing a business relationship at scale. Common means the relevant members of both parties buy into it so you need to listen to every single customer and member of your own team to define it.

I’ve seen short-cutting analysis and jumping to conclusions time and time again and it never produced sustained success. It is frequently practiced by people with power stemming from authority (managers) or experience (the people that have been around already for a long time).

Jumping to conclusions is the opposite of leadership. It pretends to know it all. It is patronizing and non-inclusive. It prevents the definition of dependable, lasting common purpose. It must be avoided.

So how do you prevent yourself from listening to respond and force yourself to listen to understand?

The first step is simple: just stay silent in a meeting. Listen to who says what. Ask probing questions like “What makes you think so?”, “How would this impact your target achievement?”, “What were the results of your action?”.

If you’re asked a question don’t pretend to have an answer, openly admit you don’t and that your questions are just meant to gain an understanding of the situation.

At the end of the meeting agree to make this an iterative process, to co-write a doc, start defining the requirements together, building a joint vision.

Whenever I was able to get buy-in from customers to embark on this journey, something magical happened: The line between buyer and seller got blurred, ideas became a joint asset, people felt ownership of the common goal that started to appear from the ambiguous background noise.

I became a virtual member of the customer’s organization, an insider. I gained insights the competition couldn’t see. And as a result, my proposition of non-traditional value became unassailable.

It all starts with listening to understand, not to respond.

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