I was raised by a world-class listener. My mom could remain completely engaged in conversation with me, hanging on my every word, asking deep questions, and delighting in the magnificence of her daughter. Of course – she was my mom, and my biggest fan. But she didn’t stop with me. She taught by example, that to love is to listen. She modeled this amazing ability to listen without judgment with almost anyone she met. She showed that she cared about people by digging in and celebrating their unique gifts. As I grew up and chose a career in sales, this skill of diving in, questioning and caring was already ingrained me. I am still most comfortable when conversations are directed away from me. This skill actually became my super power early in my sales career.
Even so, times have changed, people have changed and partners, be it personal or business, want more. I am not diminishing the value and the necessity of listening and asking rich, thought-provoking questions. But as our world becomes more and more remote and digital, people are actually craving deeper, vulnerable, honest relationships.
So how does this translate into our role as a speaker or a salesperson? It translates into story. My story. Your story. Our story of personal purpose. To be clear, we are not just asking why you work. We are asking why you chose your particular career path. What is in your history that deeply causes you to care about the experience your product, your service or your message can bring to others? That is your story. Remember what Simon Sinek proved to us with his golden circle, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
Gone are the days of the interrogating, journalistic type salesperson. People crave connections because brains today are addicted to dopamine. The problem with that addiction is that it needs more and more stimulation unless it is tempered by serotonin or oxytocin. When we take the time to share a story, a truly vulnerable story as to why we do what we do, we make a connection that leaves an audience wanting more of us. We are actually causing serotonin and oxytocin production in their brain. And it’s important to note, unlike dopamine and endorphins, those are not addictive, temporary chemicals. Those are more sustaining and they can be escalated simply by recalling the interaction that produced them in the first place. That is the chemistry of how deep, meaningful relationships are developed. This can’t be built with one-sided relationships where we are only a solution or a one-dimensional confidant. So yes, keep listening and delighting in the gifts and aspirations of others. But don’t let yourself become a reporter. Take the time to share. Share the real, unique you. This will set you apart and leave people wanting more of you.