When I am giving some advice or helping out a client regarding their sales process, I often ask them how good their team is at listening. All too often, the owner or manager I am speaking with will be caught off guard and even wonder why I would ask such a question when I’m supposed to be helping them improve sales. The reason I ask is because truly listening to a customer helps you fully understand what they need and where their pain-points are. It’s only once you truly understand a customer that you can properly offer them a solution.
Through out my career, I have learned the importance of listening and noticed 5 skills that all good listeners have. They are:
1. Be more interested in the person than yourself or your product.
A common thing that I see in semi-successful sales teams is a pride and interest in the product or service that they are providing. While this is a good thing, all too often I see sales teams that are so excited about their product or service that they can’t stop gushing about the benefits long enough to fully understand their potential customer. To be a good listener, we have to control the urge to share about our product or service and first be truly interested in the person we are talking to.
2. Ask more questions to clarify and repeat what you heard.
It can come as a surprise to some that being a good listener can involve a lot of talking. The term that I have heard used before is “active listening” and it’s the practice of not just listening to hear, but listening to understand and fully comprehend what the speaker is saying. By asking clarifying questions and confirming understanding, you are not only ensuring you fully understand what the customer is trying to communicate, but you are also showing engagement and interest in the customer themselves.
3. Listen for emotion and show empathy.
An important aspect of listening in a sales environment is being able to get to the heart of things. During a conversation, a lot of words can be shared, but there is usually only one or two driving factors and emotions that are tied to them. When listening, it is important to listen for these emotions and empathize with how the customer feels in a situation. Knowing this will help inform you on how to introduce your product or service and also guides you on key areas to focus on.
4. Make eye contact and show good posture.
This one is simple, but often the hardest for people to master. In my experience, many times having good posture and making eye contact says more than you ever could with words.
5. Listen with the intent to learn.
This last one can be hard to teach, but its root is having a genuine interest in learning from people. For me, I love learning about things that people have experienced and understanding how it shapes who they are today. The more interested you are in learning who your customer is and why they make the decisions they do, the more successful you will be at offering a solution and the happier they will be for it.
A final thought I want to leave you with is that a lot of the above strategies have to do with not judging your customers and appreciating who they are. It was with this in mind that I came up with the below saying:
When we judge others, their brain and heart close down. When we appreciate others, our brain and heart open up.