Shut up and listen – Sales tips from Winston Wolfe


We’re all familiar with the all-too common perception of salespeople as being great talkers and over-talkers. But actually, the most important skill salespeople can have is to be excellent listeners. Great salespeople are great listeners.

The inspiration for this post came from the proliferation of movie stars turning into salesmen on UK TV. As a salesperson, I’m not sure that I can learn much from Owen Wilson selling sofa’s – as entertaining as he is.

But as a salesperson I can definitely learn from Harvey Keitel’s reprisal of his Pulp Fiction character, Winston Wolfe, in the series of adverts for Direct Line insurance.

The commercial you see in this brief YouTube clip contains a brilliant lesson for salespeople. In the first sentence he addresses the client ‘You’re Dave – right?’ with the really important lesson for salespeople coming in the second sentence when the fixer, Wolfe, introduces himself to the client: ‘Winston Wolfe – I fix problems. ‘This is a fabulous lesson for salespeople because that’s exactly what salespeople do; salespeople have products or services that solve people’s problems.

Yet the majority of us don’t take advantage of that. Why? Because we are far too preoccupied with going into a meeting with a prospect and simply telling them all about our product or service and its features and benefits.

And, telling isn’t selling!

As the late, great Zig Zigler said: ‘We sell for people – not to them.’

In other words, if we can identify someone’s problem and our product/service solves that problem then we are a long way down the track of making a sale.

There are plenty of salespeople out there who sell things that don’t solve the customer’s problems and, even worse, may go so far as to stretch the truth a little to make a sale. It’s a bad reputation that all salespeople have to live with.

This is an easy enough concept to grasp. The tricky question is that of knowing how to solve a problem when we don’t know what the problem is. So here’s how: rather than being preoccupied with talking your prospect into submission try listening instead.

So, when you get that face-to-face appointment, or telephone call, or a prospect walks into your shop remember that person has a problem they think you can solve – that’s why they are there, speaking to you. If you would just but listen, let them tell you their problem, and then solve it for them. Ask relevant questions that identify what they need and then really listen to the answers.

That way you’ll be in a position to reassure the customer that you have the solution they are looking for, and you’ll make a sale. It’s really that simple.

Now you have the theory it’s time to put it into practice. The next time you are in a sales situation give it a try and let me know how it goes (I’ll be sure to share the best ones) Visit my contact page for details.