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Sell More By Avoiding Making Your Prospects Listening Hostages


Listening Hostage (def).

  1. A prospect that feels like there is no escape from a salesperson that talks about themselves or their product, ad nauseam, with no regard for the prospect’s wants, needs or concerns.
  2. A prospect that can’t escape a product and feature dumping salesperson unless she hangs up the phone or somehow manages to leap over her desk, deftly evade the salesperson and reach the door leading out of her office to freedom.

Here are three effective tips that will prevent your prospects from becoming listening hostages and help you make more sales.

1. When a prospect asks you “tell me about yourself/your company/your product or service?”

A few months ago, I read the following quote:

“A wealth of information creates a poverty in attention.”

This rings true in sales. Rather than backing up your dump truck full of information and un-mercilessly unloading on a prospect, be prepared to respond with three-four bumper sticker short, listener-centered points that are long enough to understand but short enough to remember.

Here is a simplified example of the three listener-centered points for one type of annuity.

  1. Protects your retirement income against inflation.
  2. Protects against long-term care expenses and impairment.
  3. Protects your assets from market downturns.

If you sit and think about what you and/or your products can do for prospects, you will find your three points fairly easy to come up with.

Keep in mind, that it is hard to be a listener, especially if you are the prospect listening to a sales dump of information that is not familiar to you.

After stating your three points, transition back to asking discovery questions that help you learn more about your prospect, what they care about and where your solutions may be a fit.

“A question is not an invitation for a monologue-like presentation.”

2. During your first conversation with a prospect, let them know you want to learn more about them—then do it!

One of Dale Carnegie’s 30 Principles in his timeless book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” is “Become Genuinely Interested in Other People.”

This principle did, does and will always be a part of sales success. The more a prospect feels you are interested in them, the more likely you are to influence them. And the more influence you have, the more likely a prospect is to be receptive to your solution (which means more sales by the way).

Here are two approaches to get the conversation going, and, more importantly, get a prospect feeling you are interested in them at the beginning of a conversation.

  • “What I would like to do today is learn more about what you want to achieve as well as learn more about you and your business to see if the solutions I provide for other clients is also a fit for you?”
  • “Before we dive deeper into the products and services I provide my clients, would you mind if I ask you a few questions to learn more about your business and what you are looking for? This will help us determine if anything I offer would be a fit for you?”

By doing this at the outset of a conversation, you have not only communicated to the prospect that you want to learn about them, but you have also committed to them that you WILL NOT make them suffer by listening to how great you are and how great your products are.

And now that you have committed to learn about the prospect, make sure to do it.

Start with open-ended questions like:

  • “What is most important to you…?”
  • “What are your retirement goals and what are you currently doing to achieve them?”
  • “What are you trying to accomplish with…?”
  • “What are the biggest challenges you face in reaching the goals we have discussed?”
3. Don’t be a One-Upper.

A few weeks ago, I was working with a sales representative and his prospect told us he just went on a two-week cruise to Europe. The rep responded with “That’s great. I went on a cruise to the Caribbean last year” and then proceeded to make sure the prospect knew every detail about his own Caribbean vacation.

As the rep spoke, the prospect was looking for an escape hatch.

When a client wants to talk about their personal life (i.e. a vacation or their kids) or wants to talk about their business (i.e. how they got into their business or how successful they are), let them!

Resist the natural urge to provide a similar story or let them know that you have a friend in a similar business—prospects don’t care about you!

Instead, ask them questions about their story and their business. You will find that they not only find you more interesting but just may learn something about your prospect that allows you to find a connection, qualify them and understand if your products or services are a fit.

As a prospect, no one wants to be a listening hostage, so stop making your prospects listening hostages and make more sales by following these three effective tips.

  1. When a prospect asks you “tell me about yourself/your company/your product or service?”
  2. During your first conversation with a prospect, let them know you want to learn more about them—then do it!
  3. Don’t be a One-Upper.

JD Clockadale JD Clockadale, works with national and international sales teams to help sales representatives more effectively engage prospects and clients, and more importantly, increase both the size of their sales opportunities and their long-term revenue. JD started his career as a commission-only insurance representative with Prudential Insurance Company of America and is now a senior sales consultant with Aslan Training and Development, a Selling Power magazine Top 20 nominee. Learn more about JD and M.A.D. Time OwnershipTM at

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