Listening increases your sales. Learn how using these powerful listening tips.
Listening is a vital sales tool, yet many of us have not mastered active listening. I’m sharing powerful tips to help you increase your sales by listening to your clients.
Listening is something we understand pretty quickly, but often struggle to master. Children are encouraged to listen carefully and are corrected when they don’t listen to their parents. They quickly learn to interpret listening as an active thing – requiring them to engage with what they hear and apply it appropriately to their behavior.
Listening, we learn early, means more than properly interpreting the sounds around us. It includes attending to those sounds and taking action in some way… changing how we think, feel, or behave in response.
The term active listening refers to listening in an engaged way, giving the speaker cues to indicate we are following along and interested in the conversation. It is also (in my mind) a reminder of the powerful link between listening and doing.
SO – what does this have to do with sales? Everything.
The sales process is a natural extension of the conversation we begin with our marketing. Just like any other conversation, it is built on a foundation of listening and responding. The better you listen, the more effectively you communicate… and the better your sales results.
How can you improve your listening skills and get improved sales results in return? Keep reading.
Move your mind out of “chess” mode and into reflection.
I love to play verbal chess. My mind races several moves ahead in the conversation to anticipate where the speaker will take the discussion so I can plan my response. I debate points, bring up alternatives, and attempt to “win” by implementing an effective verbal strategy. Lots of fun, but not an effective way of connecting with a client.
Listening requires reflection, not strategy. Shifting into reflection mode means focusing on true understanding rather than debate. I need to reflect on what is said (the word choice), how it is said (the tone and cadence), and the unspoken component of the conversation (the non-verbal and emotional cues).
Reflection allows me to gather these elements together and form a complete image in my mind of the other person’s point of view. This is essential in the sales process – allowing me to meet the client where she is now and speak into her current situation with a product or service she will find valuable.
I miss all of this understanding when I’m simply focused on how I will craft my pitch to respond to what I’m hearing.
Listening begins with curious questioning.
Open ended questions – the ones that can’t be answered quickly with a single word – set you up for effective listening. The best open ended questions are rooted in natural curiosity and focused on topics of interest to your client.
Typically I do a little research before a sales conversation with a prospective client so that I understand a bit about who they are and how my services might help them. This type of high-level investigation just makes sense, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it.
My pre-call research gathers a bit of foundational knowledge and a lot of curiosity. I want to know just enough to ask good, curious questions and spark an engaging conversation.
I come to the call with a list of “starter questions” based on my research and an honest desire to uncover what this client enjoys, focuses on, and needs to achieve his goals.
Common questions include:
- Why do you do this work? What do you love about it?
- What is the hardest part about what you do?
- Where would you like to go with this in the future?
Questions like these put my prospective client at ease and engage her emotions. She shares her dreams, her frustrations, and her goals as she talks. These questions shift the energy from a buying conversation (which can feel guarded) to a dialogue about an interesting topic.
That’s what I want… and typically I let the conversation progress naturally without a clear agenda.
Use a question daisy chain and listen for connections.
Conversations feel like creative work to me… shifting and changing as each person adds thoughts and feelings to the mix. I suppose that’s where the image in my mind of a daisy chain began.
Remember making chains of flowers (or paper chains) when you were a kid? The chain relied on links between each flower to stay connected. A weak link meant a broken chain.
Sales conversations are built on links between thoughts, feelings, and ideas – and they are only as strong as those connections. Break a link and the conversation falls apart.
The easiest way to build strong links is through questioning. Each question builds on the previous one, connecting responses together into a beautiful sales conversation. Remember your previous verbal chess skills? Apply them here.
After a few minutes, the conversation will likely pause naturally. (Stand next to someone at a social event for a few minutes and you’ll know exactly what I mean.) This pause is your signal to begin building a question chain.
Your chain might look something like this…
- You told me you would love to do [action]. Why?
- Interesting. What is keeping you from doing [above action] now?
- If [obstacle] weren’t an issue, what would you do next?
This chain begins at a point of felt need (the desire to do something) and moves through an exploration of challenges. From there, the chain links a specific obstacle as a problem and links to a vision of a problem free state.
You’ve just linked to the point of your sales pitch. The next conversation point is a discussion of how your work eliminates the obstacle so the client can move forward. When you make each conversation link strong and natural, the client will readily accept and consider your pitch.
Well… I’m assuming you listened early on and your pitch is aligned with what you heard (and understood) as you reflected. Not sure? The next tip is for you.
Validate and listen for buying signals.
This tip makes perfect sense, but it can be tricky to master. Your goal is to speak back what you heard and confirm your understanding (validation) before you move on to the next link in the chain.
Validation sounds like this…
- You told me….
- Sounds like you…
- So, you’re telling me …
We speak back (in our own words) our understanding of what the prospective client just shared and give him an opportunity to confirm or correct it. Then we listen carefully for buying signals.
Here’s what I mean…
When confirming (or correcting) our understanding, people naturally elaborate a bit. They tell us more and give us glimpses into the factors that matter most to them. These factors are clues and often buying signals.
Buying signals are indicators that the client is engaged in the sales process and interested in resolving issues so they can purchase confidently. They can sound positive or negative, but they are nearly always beneficial to you.
Listen for expressions of need, questions about the product or service, and objections about price, benefits, or delivery. These are buying signals. People don’t bother objecting to something they aren’t interested in.
Effective listening allows you to craft the perfect pitch and sell more.
In my experience, most people don’t actually need expensive sales training to increase their revenue. They just need to develop and master listening skills to get quick results. Increasing your ability to listen using reflection and curiosity allows you to modify your sales pitch in response to each client… and that means more revenue for your business.