Listening - and really hearing - what buyers are looking to do, what problems they are trying to solve, and what the pulse of the market is - it's critical for success.
I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.
-- Ernest Hemingway
Becoming a good listener will help you to become a very good sales professional. Whether you are listening in person or looking and listening online, it's good to listen for clues.
What is the issue the person is talking about?
What are they really saying? (note: most people won't say initially what it is that is really bothering them or what they are really looking for.)
We're taught from the time we are small, when we go into a retail store and are asked if we can be helped, to say:
"I'm just looking" Even if we are not just looking. That's to get the salesperson to back off and give us some space, right?
Here are 3 ways you can be a better listener now.
1. Ask 5 people around you for feedback on your listening skills. Don't ask, "I'm a good listener, right?" Instead ask,
On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being poor and 10 being great, how do you rate me as a listener?" (and then shut up - let them talk.)
Try varied folk - not all in your immediate group or team - ask around. Gain insight into any issues such as starting to talk before someone is finished speaking. If you can make one simple shift - like waiting until someone finishes talking before you speak, you can directly effect more revenue coming your way.
2. Think of a few more questions to ask the person you are talking to next time you engage in conversation.
The more questions you ask, the more they are talking, and the less YOU are talking. This is a great thing in sales. Just like in social media, you want to listen more than you talk.
3. Ask for clarification. Specifically say something like, "So you are saying that......" or, "Say that again?" if you missed something or if you know it was an important point the other person was conveying. Throw some human emotion in, and don't do this like you are reading a script. People are not stupid. They KNOW when you are saying, "Oh, wow" as part of your "schtick".
Remember the goal is to learn from the conversation - not to impress the person you are speaking with. If you listen intently, the other person will feel listened to, and that is what all humans seek - to be heard.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- Steven Covey
You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.
- M. Scott Peck
If you don't believe the power of listening, try this with a colleague or small sales team: Everyone talk at the same time for 2 minutes. How did that go?
Here are some more great tips on becoming an Active Listener with 5 more tips from the Mind Tools blog.
Lori Richardson speaks, writes, and trains on sales strategies for B2B mid-market technology front-line sales teams. Why not sign up for our twice-monthly newsletter, “Sales Ideas In A Minute” or the award-winning blog rss feed?
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