Communication Begins with Listening
Listening is one of the most important skills of a professional sales person. If a sales person does not fully understand his customer’s needs and problems, there is no way to provide the highest value product and/or service to satisfy those needs or provide the solutions to his problems. To clearly understand his customers, the sales person must listen. To develop and strengthen strong personal relationships, careful, attentive listening is critical.
For the majority of sales people, listening does not come naturally. Sales people love to talk, but while talking, one cannot listen. Learning good listening skills is important; honing them is even more critical.
Active listening takes concentration and hard work. It is a complex process, and a conscious intellectual effort is required to become proficient.
Why are good listening skills essential for a professional sales person?
- Aids in the creation and growth of strong, personal relationships. Customers buy from people they like and trust.
- Sets professional top producers even further apart from their competition.
- Gives customers a positive impression of the salesperson, because they know their questions and problems are clearly understood.
- Assists in closing more sales because the sales person can offer the right product or service to satisfy the customer’s needs.
- Makes selling more fun.
A sales person can look to hundreds of books and read online countless lists of what it takes to become a better listener; however, after 50 years in marketing and sales, here is my list.
How to be a better listener:
- Make a brief outline before each telephone or personal sales call, whether on paper or in your head. When your objectives are clear in your mind, you can concentrate more fully on listening.
- Clear your head. Do not carry in preconceived thoughts or prejudices.
- Make brief notes. This shows your customer you want to remember what he is saying. It also demonstrates interest in what he is talking about. Constantly think, “did I hear what he said correctly?”
- Not only listen to needs and problems to be solved, but listen for solutions. Many times customers indicate how they want their needs met or problem solved. Listen for what is not said or what your customer is implying. For many reasons they may not want to state what exact price they need, but the way words and gestures are combined, they often provide this information if you actively listen.
- Ask for clarification if it seems there are conflicting statements. Ask questions such as, “If I understand you correctly…” or “Tell me more…”
- Do not argue or rebut statements. The old adage “the customer is always right” is the best philosophy to employ to actively listen. At the end of a conversation, a clarifying comment can be appropriate to be sure your customer knows where you stand on points where you disagree.
- Give full attention to your customer. Do not let your mind wander to places outside the sales environment. Keep making eye contact. Watch for body language to confirm your customer remains engaged. Return positive body language like nodding your head and appropriate facial expressions to demonstrate you understand and are interested. Stay relaxed.
- Do not interrupt. After your customer finishes a thought, take three to four seconds before you answer. This also provides time to assemble a clear and succinct response.
In summary active listening means:
Did I hear what was said?
Do I fully understand what was said?
To make the most of your sales efforts, remember to close your mouth and open your ears.