Most salespeople like to talk. Ever notice that? They’re driven to make sales and enthused about their products, and they often want to tell you all the reasons you should buy. However, equipped with two ears and one mouth, a good salespeople should spend twice as much time listening than talking.
When we conducted market research and asked B2B decision makers about what they value most in salespeople, the number one response was “actively listens to me”. 80% of the survey respondents cited listening skills as one of the top three most valued traits. See chart below.
Improving your ability to listen to your buyers will help you sell more. Following are three strategies you can implement to become a better listener.
Focus Totally on the Other Person
Prepare some good open-ended questions, ask them at the right time and let the buyer respond. When you are seeing a new prospect, start off with a good opening question. Remember, in any conversation the person asking the questions is the person in control. So, by asking great questions and listening with genuine interest, you’ll be gathering important information that will enable you to add value to the buyer.
My firm provides sales development and fractional sales management services. When we are talking to a new prospect, we don’t immediately begin asking questions about sales training and sales management, but rather about 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 services fit into their overall growth 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.
There are two compelling reasons to take notes during a sales meeting. First, you are able to capture information that can be referenced later. Second, if you position it right, the buyer perceives you are really listening and taking the conversation seriously, and this strengthens the rapport you’re building with the buyer.
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 shared earlier.
Always ask permission to takes notes before doing so. Asking permission is one of the first “yes” answers you hope to receive throughout the selling process – the last one being a “yes” to the proposal. Getting a “yes” from the buyer about taking notes starts that important trend.
Use Active Listening
Active listening techniques are a powerful way to connect with the buyer, confirm your understanding of what they are saying, and get even more information. 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”
This is active listing - 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 gained.
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.
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.