When people think of a salesperson, they have certain preconceived notions that are hard to get away from. One of those notions is that salespeople are fast talkers who don’t listen to potential customers. A lot of people like to think that salespeople are only out for the kill and don’t really care about the client’s wants or needs.
This may be true for some salespeople, but almost paradoxically, the great salespeople have mastered the art of listening and let the customer do most of the talking. It sounds a little odd – sales is about convincing someone to buy something, how does being a great listener contribute to a successful sale?
As we know, it’s interpretive to ask a lot of questions during the sales process. Most salespeople do this. However, there is a large difference between ignoring and listening after a question is asked. All questions should be asked for a certain purpose, like obtaining a key piece of information, not just to follow a script. Next time you are asking these questions, try to do the following to maximize your listening skills.
After a Question is Asked, Be Quiet
We all know the old sales tactic – whoever speaks first, loses. This is not that. This is asking a question and letting the customer think of a real response without rushing them. If you are uncomfortable in silence, get comfortable. If the customer is comfortable with you, they are trying to give you a real and genuine response. Let them.
If the customer is in the middle of a sentence, don’t jump in and say “I agree” or “Yes that makes sense”. It almost makes you come off as a “yes man” and will stop the customer in their tracks. On the flip side, avoid “but, but, but” too. Let them finish their thoughts, then address it once they have finished.
Remove Preconceived Notions
If you prejudge someone, you will automatically prejudge their answers too, and it will heavily distort what you hear. Stay away from this.
Repeat what the Customer is Saying
This also helps empathize with the customer. If they are having problems or have suggestions for your product or service, repeating their answers back to them will show them that you are indeed listening. It will also force you to absorb the information as well, which will be useful when custom-tailoring the pitch.
Take Notes/Remember what is Being Said
If you are on the phone, there is no reason to avoid taking notes. It’s a very powerful tool because you can look back and use the “because you told me this…” line. If you are face-to-face, taking notes can be a coin toss in terms of the customer’s comfort level, but either way, actually remembering what is being said will help you connect the dots with later answers to identify an actual want or need.
Read Between the Lines
Dr. House likes to say “Everybody lies”. No matter what, unless your customer is totally comfortable with you, they will attempt to fabricate the truth to cover up a hidden want or need. That is why it is important to not only focus on what is said, but also, focus on what is not being said. Take note of voice pitch and other non-verbal clues too.
Ask Follow up Questions Based on Answers
When you first ask a question and hear an answer, even if it’s not the answer you were looking for, don’t jump to another question that is totally irrelevant. The customer will immediately sense it and your conversation will turn to an interrogation. Rather, repeat the key parts of their previous answer, then ask a follow up question based on that, even if it seems irrelevant to you. Keep the conversation going and you might discover a key piece of information.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
If a customer starts to answer you and they are beginning to answer like you predicted, it’s easy to mentally tune out and jump to a favorable conclusion. Just like our article before where we said that a sales month is never over until it’s over – same goes for an answer. If you jump to a conclusion before it’s presented, you might be incorrect and jump off a cliff.
While there are certainly more elements to becoming an active listener, use these rules during your next sales call and see if it improves the way you listen and the way your customers respond to you.