When Agreement is Really Disagreement - Happy Ears for Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 27, 2010 @ 23:10 PM

happy earsYour salesperson asks his prospect a question like, "Does that make sense?" and his prospect replies, "Sure."  Feeling relieved that his explanation was successful, your salesperson moves on, an unwitting participant in what will become a huge surprise to him. 

Why will it be a surprise? 

Your salesperson had happy ears - he heard what he wanted to hear and missed the accompanying signals that should have alerted him to the fact that he got lip service rather than the truth. 

Perhaps you're thinking, "but my people sell on the phone, not face to face, so how will they be able to see it?" 

They must listen - and listen for what's not said as much as for what is said.  In a scenario like the one I described above, they can simply push back a little by saying, "I know you said, 'sure' but I had the feeling that you didn't really mean 'sure'."

That's when the prospect will admit that he wasn't really comfortable with the explanation, didn't completely understand how it would help, didn't really see the need for that one benefit, and isn't impressed - yet.  And his resistance goes up.   

So two things can happen.  Your salespeople can sail through their discussions, hear what they want to hear, believe they have a strong opportunity and never quite understand why it doesn't close. Or, they can stop, push back, and help their prospects communicate the real issue.  Then they will have a chance to deal with it while the prospect can still remember what the problem is.

Happy Ears or Effective Salespeople?  It all comes down to training, coaching, observation skills, commitment and practice.  When put that way, there is as much burdon on you as there is on your salespeople.  Are you up for this challenge?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, happy ears

Happy Ears - 2nd of the 10 Sales Competencies That Are Key to Building a Sales Culture

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Oct 09, 2009 @ 08:10 AM

This article focuses our attention on the 2nd of the  10 Sales Competencies That are Key to Building a Sales Culture.

#2 Prevent Happy Ears

I recently wrote two articles on the subject; this article on the 5 Steps to Coaching Your People Beyond Happy Ears and this article, Is It Happy Ears or an Empty Pipeline?

So let's explore a little more.

What exactly is a case of Happy Ears?  A salesperson has Happy Ears when she hears what she wants to hear.  Example: Your salesperson asks her prospect about the budget and the prospect says, "we'll try to find the money".  Your salesperson hears, "We have the money, and we will spend the money, and there isn't a limit."  Another example: Your salesperson asks his prospect who is making the decision and the prospect answers, "I'll be involved."  Your salesperson hears, "I'm the decision maker!" A third example: The prospect says, "We should do this." Your salesperson hears, "We're going to buy."

Here are some of the things salespeople with Happy Ears tend to do:

  • make assumptions
  • accept vague statements
  • fail to question things
  • not ask specific questions
  • fail to make sure the answers are to the questions they asked
  • fail to make sure the answers were as specific as the questions
  • draw false conclusions
  • not ask the right questions about incumbents and competitors
  • not ask the right questions about motivation, incentives and reasons
  • not confront
  • never have the actual amount of money a prospect will spend
  • never have the time line for the decision right
  • never quite understand the concept of what can go wrong
  • see the world through role-colored glasses
  • be too optimistic

Ugly.  So what can you do about it?  Understand that many of the people with Happy Ears also have Need for Approval.  You have to help them overcome that before you can solve the problem with Happy Ears.  The fastest way to overcome Need for Approval is to have them use the SalesMind CD twice daily for 3 weeks. Then begin interrogating your salespeople (who have happy ears) during post-call debriefs!  Ask every skeptical, doubting, question you can. Be consistent with the questions and the frequency of your interrogations.  Make your salespeople so uncomfortable that they start asking these questions themselves, just so they'll have the answers to the questions they now know you will ask.  And then, finally, their happy ears may just begin to disappear.

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, Sales Force, happy ears

5 Steps to Coaching Your Salespeople Beyond Happy Ears

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:09 AM

Today I posted this article about Diagnosing and Overcoming Happy Ears on the Baseline Selling web site.  And last week I wrote this article about Happy Ears and an empty pipeline.

Following are my thoughts about how you, the leader of your salespeople, can help them overcome Happy Ears. Slip into these five roles to help them be more realistic about and more comprehensive with their opportunities.

  1. Be their Doubting Thomas - Be more pessimistic than them. 
  2. Be their Carpenter - punch holes in everything they tell you by asking, "how do you know?" or "did they actually say that or is that what you think?"
  3. Be their Elephant - remind them of the last time they told you this - and what happened late when they were caught by surprise.
  4. Be their Show Director - rehearse them for what they must ask - before the call - through role play.
  5. Be their Coach - Do less cheerleading and more challenging.

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(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales management, selling, sales tips, sales management coaching, happy ears

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for nine consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave

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