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How to Create a Target-Rich Sales Pipeline

Beyond Listening: Integrative Conversations

Salespeople today know that listening is a vanishing art in a world where knowledge is exploding all around us. Top salespeople know that buyers can be liars. Sometimes, they're confused as to what they want, and they often need a guide who helps them clearly define what they really need. Like psychiatrists are trained to listen to facts, feelings, and fantasies, top salespeople tune in to the customer's psyche, probing for needs, wants, hopes, desires. They always make sure there's a pause after the customer has finished talking; they know that the most important clues to the customer's real concerns often come as an afterthought.

Listen to More Than What Is Said

Great salespeople also listen to their own streams of thought that are triggered by their customer’s words, sounds, and images; this is also known as following our instincts. These salespeople go a step beyond rephrasing the customer's problems to demonstrate understanding. They do more than ask probing questions that allow them to sharpen their understanding. These superstar salespeople follow a highly effective process that good psychiatrists use: integrative conversations.

Summarizing Your Understanding Is Not Enough

Average salespeople are too preoccupied with reducing the customer's comments to a Reader's Digest version of the conversation: "What I hear you saying is…" Great salespeople kick it up a notch by weaving what they've heard the customer say with what bubbled up inside their own mind while they listened.

An integrative conversation is an authentic exchange of ideas, concepts, opinions, and feelings, with both parties developing a new narrative that reflects a synergistic whole that's co-created by both partners. Integrative conversations happen naturally between non-neurotic people who are willing to give up their preconceived notions when a better idea comes along. For integration to occur, there must be freedom from emotional obstacles or ego-related issues. Integrative salespeople don't push ideas into a prospect's mind; they tease them out instead. They are not preoccupied with the outcome of the conversation; they focus on the quality of the conversation, the flow of ideas, and the depth of understanding that leads to fresh insight. An integrative conversation gets both people to focus on co-creating an optimized outcome.

Become an Integrative Leader

Sales leaders can maximize their potential by becoming integrative leaders. Management guru Warren Bennis once said that becoming a leader is much the same thing as becoming an integrated human being. Integrative leaders are continuously exploring their inner life while passionately pursuing their business goals. 

Key takeaway: Next time, try to be open to what the customer communicates, and observe how the customer's facts and feelings resonate with you. Instead of focusing on the logical content as the sole source for your response, integrate your own associations into your response; it will greatly enrich your conversation. You will become a better collaborator and feel better about your personal and professional achievements. 

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