Active listening is the #1 skill for a salesperson. According to experts, we spend 49% of our day listening. If we spend so much time listening, we should strive for proficiency. And for salespeople, it pays to be a good listener even though the skill is often underutilized.
Successful selling is based on the relationship. Good relationships thrive on the optimal mix of talking and listening. In the sales relationship, your need is to communicate your product's value while your prospect needs to be and feel heard. In the old days, the salesperson nodded and said, “I hear you,” but the elite salesperson today relies on the skill of active listening. Active listening fosters a good relationship, builds trust, and allows the attentive salesperson to uncover areas in which the product meets the need of the prospect.
Here are my Top 5 strategies to hone your active listening skills:
- Give your Full Attention
Look the prospect in the eye while you are conversing and don’t let your eyes or your mind wander off. Remain focused and actively engage in what is being said. Nod in agreement when necessary and lean into the conversation at hand - as if you do not want to miss a thing - because you want to hear what’s important to the prospect.
- Do Not Interrupt
Let a prospect finish a thought before you begin to talk. People appreciate having the chance to say what’s on their mind without being interrupted. When you interrupt it looks as though you aren’t listening even if you are. If you are not sure whether the thought has been completed, you may test the waters by saying, “It is good to hear what is on your mind.”
- Actively Summarize
Reiterating in your own words what the prospect said to you gives them feedback about whether they have been heard. It also communicates your desire to be in a productive business relationship and to gather correct information. Statements like “What I heard you saying” or “let me confirm what I thought I heard you say” are proven ways to enhance your connection. This feedback also gives the prospect the opportunity to agree or say it another way - offering nuanced insights to the prospects needs and goals.
- Take Notes
Often the act of writing something down - or making an electronic note - helps you remember it even if you lose the notes you take. In addition, it signals to the prospect that you care about the details. If you feel awkward taking notes, simply tell your prospect that you want to take a few notes so that you can provide the best solution.
- Create a Customized Plan
There is no better proof that you heard your prospect than to offer a tailored solution to meet the identified needs and challenges. Using your other active listening skills, you will have gleaned enough information to offer solutions your company can provide. This plan can be let with the prospect along with your commitment to follow up with a more formal proposal.
Active listening is a skill to up your game in any relationship and is crucial for becoming an elite salesperson. Improving your listening skills will enable you to learn the values, commitments, priorities, and challenges of your buyers. That knowledge that will lead to better relationships and can produce more sales. Your customer’s greatest need may be the need to be heard and recognizing and meeting that need will set you apart from the rest.