02 May Best Advice: Shut Up and Listen
This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share the best advice they’ve ever received.Read all the posts here.
When I first started out my career as a salesperson for Radio Disney at the age of 22, I was young and foolish (well, even younger and more foolish than I am today). I thought I had a great product to sell and that people would love to listen to me talk about it. I thought I could be charming and persuasive and convince decision-makers why it made sense to use my product to solve their marketing problems. I thought I could talk my way into anything.
I thought wrong.
Several weeks into my job, I was failing miserably, despite what I considered to be loads of charm and ability to persuade. My mentor, the Regional Sales Manager for Radio Disney at the time, Peggy Iafrate, said to me, “How well are you listening to what your prospects have to say? How many questions are you asking them to better understand them? How are you showing them that you care about them more than you care about selling them?”
“Dave,” she said, “Remember this one thing: Shut up and listen.”
I hadn’t been doing a very good job of listening. In fact, by my very nature, I’m a type-A personality, full of thoughts, running a mile a minute, an impatient New Yorker who always has something to say and rarely slows down. So, it took some real dedication and practice to listen to what Peggy told me about listening and heed her advice.
I began asking my prospects more questions. Listening to their problems, listening to their interests, listening to their every word became my obsession. I thought very little about how to sell them on advertising with Radio Disney and instead focused on listening attentively to everything they had to say so that I could better understand them as people and better understand their organizational needs and challenges. Once I understood them, I could do a much better job of delivering what they wanted and needed, both in the product I was selling and in the way I sold it.
Things quickly started to fall into place once I started listening. Within six months, I was the number-one local salesperson in the country, and a year later, Peggy awarded me the “Mickey Award” for sales success. All for shutting up and listening.
Salespeople, leaders, entrepreneurs and business people are full of ideas. Many of you have ideas all day long every day about how to make the world a better place, make money, solve problems and lots more. But the very nature of active listening requires us to put aside our ideas completely, if only for a moment, in order to focus on what someone else has to say.
As difficult as that can be, it’s through listening to customers, prospective customers, colleagues, employees and others that we can better understand what their needs and motivations are, and ultimately make our ideas better and more executable. It’s leaders like you who need to learn to listen better, even more so than the world’s followers.
J.P. McEvoy said, “When you talk, you are repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”
So, as Peggy said to me years ago, please, for your own good and the good of the world, shut up and listen.
Now it’s your turn. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? How well do you listen and how well do the people you work with listen? Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below! I’ll be listening!
Top photo: ollyy/Shutterstock. Other photos: Dave Kerpen.
BONUS! Here is a presentation my wife made about the value of “Shut up and listen” for brands: