Every sales course talks about the two important aspects, asking questions and listening. I find that teaching people to ask questions is easy, but teaching them how to listen effectively is more challenging.
Many times not listening stems from the fact that people are too anxious to sell, and are unconcerned about the customer’s needs. In other cases, some salespeople just think that they have more control when they are talking rather than when listening. When in fact listening allows you more control over the situation. Despite the popular belief, the best sales people are the best listeners, not the best talkers.
Listening is truly an art. It can be learned and it takes practice. I thought I was a great listener until took a listening assessment. I am quite good but I can be better.
How vital is listening for negotiating and closing deals?
Have you ever found yourself doing the following?
- You are wondering when this guy is ever going to stop talking, so you can tell him how wrong he is.
- Your cell phone just beeped, and you are sitting there with ants in your pants and are just dying to see who it is?
- You feel that you are talking 80% of the time, and why isn’t this guy asking questions or participating.
- When the prospect answered how you stacked up to competition, you give a stock answer, and don’t know why he is asking.
- You interrupt your client to give an answer or solution for everything that your prospect has objections or concerns about.
- You try to close the deal by offering price discounts, and it fails.
- You are preparing your response mentally before the prospect has finished.
- You find yourself in a debate with your prospect, rather than a conversation.
- You are always first to break the silence.
And at the absolute worst, the prospect buys and the next day they cancel the order.
These are all symptoms of sales situations, where not listening loses business.
Listening is purposeful — it requires discipline, energy, and a total focus on the customer. To listen effectively you cannot have an emotional involvement, because you will tend to hear what you want to hear. You can think faster than someone can speak so your mind has a tendency to wander while someone is speaking.
To practice effective listening try these tips:
- Encourage the prospect to speak by asking relevant questions. Then stop, breath, and focus on taking in every word.
- If you find yourself answering each question as it comes up, try asking at least two to three questions before responding with a solution. You may find the answer to the next questions help you more clearly understand the customer and keeps you from responding with an incorrect solution.
- Give your undivided attention to whoever is speaking. Turn off the cell phone.
One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues.
- Body language is the most effective form of communication. Nod occasionally or smile to let your customer know you are actively listening and remember they are listening to your body language.
- Make eye contact to let your prospect know it’s them you are paying attention to.
- Take notes. Taking notes forces you to pay attention to what’s being said, rather than focusing on how you’re going to answer and gives you a tool to help summarize your customer’s concerns.
- Let someone finish their thoughts and do not try and formulate answers before the person is finished speaking, never interrupt your customer in mid-flow. It’s distracting and frustrating for your customer.
- Summarize and reconfirm what your customer has told you using your notes and your own words and ask for clarification to make sure there is no misunderstanding.
You’ll find that top sales performers are effective listeners. They’ve taken the time to practice their listening skills. Good sales managers also practice their listening skills with their sales staff because they realize their sales people are also their customers.