Listening skills are valuable salesperson traits according to buyers in a recent survey on selling skills. When buyers were asked about the most valued traits in a salesperson, 80% selected “actively listens to me.” If you’re a good listener, you’ve got an important skill to be an elite salesperson.
There are 3 things you can do to improve your listening skills in a sales situation or any situation where it is important to obtain complex information: 1) focus totally on the other person, 2) take notes, and 3) use active listening techniques.
Focus Totally on the Other Person
Too often salespeople are so focused on talking about their companies or the features and benefits of their products and services, they simply don’t pay enough attention to what’s on the buyer’s mind. They don’t ask enough or the right open-ended questions to understand the buyer’s complete perspective.
My firm provides digital marketing services and sales development programs. When we are talking to a new prospect, we don’t immediately begin asking questions about search engine optimization or sales processes. We start with what the company wants to achieve overall and how sales and marketing fit into their over-arching goals. We want to
understand the bigger picture first, how the buyer envisions his future, and how the buyer feels about his situation.
By doing so, we can better understand how our offering might fit into their overall plans. In some cases, we may find our offering is not an appropriate fit, so we avoid selling something that won’t benefit their company.
Remember, buyers buy for only two reasons; to gain something or to avoid a painful situation. By focusing totally on the buyer’s perspective and asking profound open-ended questions, we can understand their point of view (gain or pain) before ever thinking about our product or service.
Taking notes has tremendous benefits in a sales situation. When you’re in a restaurant and the waiter takes your order by memory without any notes, don’t you worry that he or she will get it right – especially if you’ve asked for some special changes? Studies have shown that customer satisfaction increases when the wait staff writes down the order because the orders are more accurate when they come out of the kitchen. When you are extracting important information from a buyer, don’t you want to make sure you get it
right and really capture the nuances? Often times, the nuances and how you address them are what separates you from the competition.
Always ask permission to takes notes before doing so. Asking permission achieves several things. First, it sends a subtle message to the buyer that what they say is important enough to write down. Also, when you ask permission to take notes, the buyer will almost always say “yes”. Getting a “yes” from the buyer starts an important trend in getting a “yes” all the way to when you ask for the sale.
Finally, taking good notes enables you to include the details and nuances into your proposal. When I come back to make proposals and include in my recommendations the details and nuances from previous conversations, buyers immediately connect and engage because I am addressing the very details they discussed earlier.
Summarize and Feedback
Active listening techniques are a powerful way to connect with the buyer and confirm your understanding of what they are saying. Statements like…
- “let me confirm what I thought I heard you say”
- “what I am hearing is this”
- “it sounds like you are concerned about this”
…are powerful statements to confirm you got it right and encourage the buyer to tell you more. Often the buyer will say you got it exactly right – another “yes”. Sometimes the buyer will disagree. A disagreement is not a step backward; rather, it is a step forward in better understanding the buyer’s perspective. Frequently, the use of active listening
techniques will get the buyer to divulge information well beyond what you’ve originally
The use of active listening will strengthen your connection with the buyer, which likely leads to you learning things like who your competition is, their budget, and the criteria on which the buyer will make their selection. Valuable information no doubt.
In summary, listening skills are a critical trait to becoming an elite salesperson. Improving your listening skills will enable you to learn things about your buyers that will lead to more sales. Improve your listening skills by focusing totally on the buyer’s perspective, taking notes, and using active listening techniques to ensure you completely understand the buyer’s perspective.