Good Listening Skills are Great Communication Skills
Shut up and listen: It sounds harsh, but is it? Not really. Learning how to be a good listener is a key to success in life, not just in sales. And if you want to be a successful business professional, it’s a lesson and a skill that you must learn to master. I’ve coached many clients who wish to excel in sales BUT, they come in to see me with issues of not being able to close the deal, and I’ve found the trouble usually lies in their communication skills.
So lets step back for a moment.
The business of selling is about building and maintaining relationships with clients. If all you want to do is sell, you will have a tough time in the long run. Communication skills really need to be developed, and for sales people, 70 percent of their time should be spent LISTENING - and that’s where they run into problems.
This is why the issue of not being able to close is such a common problem. I usually take clients back to step three of my six steps of sales, which is Qualifying. I ask and wonder if they really can’t close or is there something wrong in the Qualification process. As a professional sales coach, I will try to listen and learn the questions my client asks, and then I will reverse roles with them. I act as the salesperson and they as client to see how this step could have been utilized in a much more beneficial way for the client.
Usually I find that in the third step, their mind is wandering either to another question or how much they will earn if they sell a particular product or service. They’ve stopped tuning in to the clients needs, or they just simply try to sell or close in this step or just TALK TOO MUCH.
Lets face it, the client is not interested in you. They are interested in their needs, and whether you might be able to help them. Truthfully, it should be why you want to do business with them in the first place, right? When you don’t listen, you’re showing how much you don’t care to understand them. The result: they won’t buy from you. It’s just that simple.
How successful people think is not self-centered. They didn’t chase personal wealth, but instead chased solutions to help others, and the wealth found them. Believe me, that meant that they had to do a LOT of listening to understand what people needed and wanted. Communication really is the very bridge to success, and if you can’t focus long enough to truly listen, any success you have will be short-lived.
Characteristics of a good listener
Of course, we like to talk about ourselves, it’s only natural. So in order to develop standards for success, we need to go against our instincts and not only be quiet, but actively engage in understanding what the other person is saying. This is why I like to role play with clients to help them develop their listening skills.
Good and active listeners learn how to ask questions, and wait for the answer
Follow up with other questions based on their answer
Complete selflessness - it’s not about you, it’s about what the customer is saying
Rules for good listening
Do your homework on the person you’ll be talking to. The more you learn about them, the more you can ask them about their business, as well as their interests. You may even find something in common with them - and that certainly is a way to build trust and close a sale.
Remove the distractions. If you’re addicted to your cell phone, shut it OFF and put it away. If you feel that will make you nervous, you need to prepare for it - again, this is where working with a business coach can provide a pathway for success. If you need to write notes while they’re talking, tell them ahead of time and explain that you want to make sure you are getting all of the details.
Body language: Everything about you should say, “I’m listening and I care.” That means your eyes meet theirs when you’re talking, and your arms aren’t folded when they’re speaking. Lean forward a little - that tells them you are interested - and nod in understanding.
I’m not suggesting that sales people stop crafting their sales pitch, but their focus unfortunately is on sell, sell, sell. I believe that you need to shift that mindset to believing the customer should always want to buy, buy, buy. That places the emphasis on them, and not you. And the only way this will happen is if they feel that you have their heart in mind. If you are selfish they will pick up on it quickly and show you the door, or they might buy once and that will be the end of you.
So before you enter a meeting with a client, make sure your communication skills come with you. Walk in with an open mind, an authentic interest, two open ears, and a closed mouth (as well as your cell phone). If you need some practice on it, let’s talk about how I can help you employ a few habits to improve your listening skills to make sure your client or prospect feels like they’re being heard, and being valued.