Listen Like a Homicide Detective
While listening to a talk show on the car radio as I battled rush hour traffic, I heard a police officer being interviewed. He is the head of the Homicide Unit in his city and was discussing techniques used to question suspects.
One line was so profound and applicable to sales that I kept repeating it so I wouldn’t forget it: “When a suspect is talking, don’t do or say anything to cause him to stop.” Wow! So true. And, going beyond the surface level shows the actual danger and potential damage here. They don’t just stop talking when you interrupt them—they are also psychologically inhibited from continuing to speak.
Do you know people who dominate a conversation and jump in with their thoughts before you’ve finished yours? When they do it enough times, you probably say, “Oh, why bother? I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself.” Think of all the ways salespeople cause prospects/customers to stop talking once they’ve started on a line of thought. What can we do instead? Here is a list.
DON'T - respond to an answer without encouragement to continue. Instead, listen reflectively. For example, say "Go on" or "Tell me more."
DON'T - follow up their statement or answer with an unrelated question or train of thought that gets them off subject. Instead, focus on every statement or answer like it's the tip of the iceberg and your goal is to travel deeper. Direct your next question to get to the next layer.
DON'T - respond to their statement or answer with too much of your own experiences. Empathy is good, but one-upmanship is bad (e.g., "Well, let me tell you how big of a fish I caught!"). Instead, prompt them to continue. Resist the tendency to share your experiences and think about what you can learn.