Listening is an important skill for media sales, though it is often overlooked.
A great sales person can learn a lot about a client by actively listening. What do I mean by actively listening?. This can be reading between the lines, noticing a slight change in tone or body language that reveals something that has not been actually said. It can enable you to probe more deeply to get to the hidden meaning of what the person really is saying.
According to Julian Treasure in his interesting Ted Talk, ‘5 Ways to Listen Better’, we have lost our ability to listen. The world is so noisy, it is becoming increasingly hard to listen. We are becoming impatient and want information in soundbites. He also questions whether in the age of the ‘selfie’, if personal broadcasting is too one-sided and personal promotion is of more value than understated listening.
So what are the implications of this for media sales people?
Well there is no doubt that the sales people I work with are having to take on more media agencies, sell across more platforms and respond to more briefs. So it is understandable that you can feel you haven’t got time to actively listen as there is so much to do and you need to get your message out there if you want to get on schedules.
However by listening you can actually save time. When briefs come in spend time carefully reading them and then discuss your thoughts with your agency and try to understand what it is they really want back from you. Time spent here (if you can actually speak to the agency!) will ensure you deliver a better response and therefore have a better chance of winning the business.
When you discuss upcoming plans with clients and agencies try to dig deeper. Discuss the wider issues the client is facing and don’t make assumptions or jump in with your solution too early in the discussion.
Julian suggest 5 ways to improve your listening. If you haven’t got time to watch the video here is a brief summary of the tips.
1) Spend 3 mins each day in silence, so you can hear silence again. This ties in with the trend for Mindfulness that many employers are encouraging employees to experience
2) The Mixer- when you enter a noisy room, how many sounds can you hear?. Try to hear three different sounds. This will improve the quality of your listening
3) Savoury- this is designed to encourage you to savour everyday sounds, such as your washing machine!!
4) Listening position- try to be active rather than passive, expansive rather than reductive, and empathetic rather than critical
5) Follow the acronym RASA for concious listening
- Receive- pay attention
- Appreciate- make little noises so the person can hear that you are listening
- Summarise- recap what you have heard
- Ask- ask questions to gain more insight or understanding.
Concious listening is not an easy skill to master, it takes time, patience and lots of practise. Give it a try for a few weeks and see how it can improve the way you sell.