February 2, 2015

Listening skills



Whilst putting together a mini sales training session recently I found a questionnaire for listening skills and decided to have a go… I can’t believe I only got a score of “good”!!

So much for my self-belief that I am great at it, it was a mini epiphany.

It’s got me thinking … how good are we really at listening and why is it so darn difficult to excel at it?

It’s most probably because whilst we are listening to our client we may also be having a conversation with ourselves in our head… Everyone has inner conversations, however, if the inner conversation becomes too deep and involved it’s not so good.

This blog will look at what could be going on and how to stop it so that we can properly listen and improve the skills required to fully understand how we can help the customer and as a result, improve our sales performance.

Some of the things we might be thinking about: 
  • We’re trying to come up with a good response in our head

Which is great, but if we are doing this too much before they finish speaking then we may be coming to the wrong conclusions too early before we have all the facts. At this point we’re probably only half listening to what they are actually saying, or worse we may even cut them short.

  • We think we have found the solution and are exited to share it with them

It can be all consuming when we think we’ve cracked it. Our mind starts racing and we start thinking about how much we can help them and what we are going to say to clinch the sale. Meanwhile, the client might be discussing a bigger issue which is more important to them that we could really help them with… and it may even be the deal breaker. Problem is, we never heard it.

Some of the horrible things we may do as a consequence:
  • Interrupt them 

We think we know what they need to do, we get impatient with their chat and stop their conversation. This is the worst thing to do, being interrupted is not nice, not professional and it will damage the chance ever building a good relationship.

  • Offer advice too early

Easily done, we hear a real need, propose our solution and go for the sale! It’s not a good idea and will reduce the chances of finding out the bigger picture. The client won’t believe you understand them or that you have taken the time to. The relationship may not be strong enough for a recovery and without full clarification of what they are looking for, you may never be invited back to do it right.

  • Assume they think like us

Sometimes we offer advice even if we don’t know what the client’s motivations and issues are. Why? Because we think we already understand them because if we were they we would be feeling a certain way, prefer a particular colour or brand etc. But we are not and therefore need to discover what they are thinking and feeling to be able to offer the solution that is right for them.

Things we can do to stop the excessive inner thoughts:
  • Prepare for the meeting

Proper preparation for the meeting will ensure we at least understand the wider issues and will it reduce the number of curve balls we may have to deal with in our heads during the meeting.

Do a bit of research, qualify them before the meeting, have a list of relevant questions ready and set objectives for the meeting. With these, you will be more relaxed and able to listen properly to what they are saying and show that you understand their business.

  • Have confidence in your abilities & company product offer

If we are not confident in our selling skills then that is just one more worry in our heads that will take over our ability to listen. We’re too busy thinking about a potential objection that might crop up, thinking about how we are ever going to ask for the business etc. Practice and build your selling skills so that you are confident in all sales situations and this will drastically improve your listening capacity.

The same thing applies to your product offer. We should know it inside and out. What are our products, what are the features & benefits, the USP, and what motivates potential clients to buy them? Knows these well and the confidence that you can professionally describe these as solutions will allow you the time to properly listen to the issues your products can resolve.

  • Write key words on a pad

And last but not least … one of the best ways to clear your head of thoughts is to flush any potential questions or ideas as keywords out of your head and write them onto a pad. This removes any excessive thinking and doubles up as a potential avenue of further questioning later if they don’t actually bring them up themselves in conversation.

I hope this helps and happy listening! If you want any further advice on this subject please contact me.


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