Active listening is a powerful way of listening and responding to customers, that improves mutual understanding. It is the foundation of effective communication and demonstrates real respect.
According to Nancy Kline, author of the book â€˜Time to Think,â€™ when you are listening to someone, much of the quality of what you are hearing is your effect on them.
Giving good attention to people makes them more intelligent. Poor attention makes them stumble over their words and seem stupid. Your attention and your listening is what are important. When we are in conflict, we can sometimes contradict the customer, denying their description of a situation. This tends to make them defensive and they will either lash out or alternatively, withdraw and say nothing more.
However, if they believe that we are really tuned in to their concerns and want to listen, they are more likely to explain in detail what they feel and why. This in turn gives sales people a much greater chance of being able to develop a win-win solution.
Your role in the sales situation alternates between sender and receiver of messages. The very best sales professionals devote a large portion of the sales interview to listening, because sincere listening demonstrates sincere interest. Ultimately, good listening is the shortest distance between you and more sales; better sales, faster sales.
How often has a customer said something that has been misinterpreted by you? If you accept the view that everyone is unique, then every word has a different meaning to different individuals? What we say can be different to what we actually mean, because we all have to edit our thoughts in order to communicate them in words. We do this by a combination of deletion, distortion and generalization
Communication involves four steps:
1. Sensing the message and the stimuli that goes with it
2. Interpreting it (to be sure you understand)
3. Evaluating it (never judge before you understand)
4. Reacting (either verbally or non-verbally)
Thatâ€™s why it pays to listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Frequently, a gesture, an expression, will reveal as much or more than words. Therefore, effective listeners seek to understand the meaning behind their customersâ€™ words. This requires giving the other person full attention and demands conscious practice.
To become excellent at listening, there are three main techniques:
1. Build high levels of rapport and trust your instincts.
When two people have established high levels of rapport, they unconsciously pick-up on the feelings of each other. At this point the sales person may get an instinct about something the customer â€˜feelsâ€™, which is important feedback that is driven from their unconscious mind.
Trusting these instincts can sometimes prove to be a challenge for people who work in a corporate, logical environment, yet the ability to â€˜listenâ€™ and act upon these instincts can make the difference between a good listener and a great listener. If for example, you have created rapport and start to feel nervous, then chances are so is your customer. Imagine the impact of asking, â€œIâ€™m getting a sense that youâ€™re feeling nervous about this, what specific concerns do you have?â€ will have on your customer.
2. Demonstrate that you are paying attention.
This really encourages the customer to continue talking and helps put them at ease because they can see that youâ€™re interested in what they are saying. Using noncommittal words with a positive voice tone that neither agree nor disagree with what is being said will ensure that the customer remains motivated to want to continue talking. For example, â€œI seeâ€/ â€œUh-huhâ€/ â€œThatâ€™s interestingâ€ are great ways to achieve this. Nodding your head and taking written notes are also effective when demonstrating your interest.
3. Clarifying your understanding.
Adopting a consultative approach means that itâ€™s vital to fully appreciate your prospectâ€™s requirements. Even if you think that your prospect has made them very clear, itâ€™s good practice to summarize your understanding of them. For example: â€œSo what youâ€™re saying is (requirement).â€ â€œYou obviously value (requirement) as being very important to you.â€
These summaries will strengthen your relationship and demonstrate a genuine desire to really understand what they want. Re-phrase their main points at regular intervals and â€˜play them backâ€™ to them. This helps them see if they have said exactly what they wanted to say and to make sure you understand. Put their feelings into words. This will help them evaluate and perhaps modify their statementâ€¦and it gives further evidence of your understanding.
News: As promised, here is my agenda for the next three weeks: Normal post tomorrow to wind up 2012. Then I will be on vacation for three weeks and back in the saddle on Tuesday January 15th. However, there will be fresh posts here every day during that period, which will either be guest posts from my favorite bloggers/commentators, or some of my best entries from 2012 (in my opinion)
On December 30th, I will be looking back over the past twelve months, and sharing my highlights with you. Then on the 31st, look out for my 2013 predictions for the sales space. Finally on January 1st, along with my New Year’s message, I will be providing full details about what JFA and TSW are going to be up to in the coming months.