In life, when other people talk too much, we notice right away. When we talk too much, it’s everyone else that notices. Let’s be honest, salespeople love to talk to people. Although this isn’t always a bad thing (you’re probably viewed as friendly, relatable, and honest) it can quickly alienate a prospect. The issue is when a salesperson is so focused on their agenda, they can get caught up listening only to the things they want to hear, missing queues and overlooking the needs of the prospect. According to Hubspot, only 17% of salespeople think of themselves as pushy, while 50% of prospects do.
Rather than passively listening, waiting for the first chance to jump in and share your own two cents, try active listening and let the deals advance as the prospect engages. Stop listening to respond and start listening to understand.
Active Listening – The act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech.
Active listening entails giving your full, undivided attention not only to your prospect’s words but their tone of voice, word choice, and (if you’re face-to-face) body language. And it doesn’t stop there. After listening, active listeners also repeat back and touch on the important points that they feel the other was trying to get across. When a person has the ability to actively listen, they are able to hear what’s being said from the other person’s perspective and leave their own agenda on the back burner long enough to truly understand the prospect’s needs.
And that is precisely why great listening is the single most important skill for a top notch sales person. It builds mutual trust and understanding to help propel the sales cycle. We’ve gathered the 4 steps of active listening to help take your sales calls up a notch.
Steps of active listening
Salespeople are often trained to listen for key words or points that they can, in turn, use to their benefit by exemplifying how their solution can help. Although this seems like a good tactic, your prospect is seeing right through you. No matter how you try and hide it, your prospect can sense that you’re not truly listening, you’re selectively hearing them out until you find a point you can drive home, regardless of if they truly need your solution or not.
Instead, use active listening to pick up on the words and feelings that a prospect is conveying via their word choice, tone of voice, or body language. Using all of these queues helps the salesperson put themselves in the prospect’s shoes. Stop worrying about your agenda, what you’re going to say next, and making the sales and start active listening. This will make a big difference to your prospect, setting you apart from the competition. Create an environment of trust and commitment and you’ll start to notice your prospects opening up more.
Repeat what you heard
After a prospect makes a statement that you feel reveals pertinent information, repeat it, allowing them to hear it from you. This step is important for two reasons; first, repeating things back helps you process information. Second, it lets the prospect know you’re listening and verifies that you understand.
Confirm you understand
The point here is to verify that both parties are on the same page. It can be as simple as asking “Did I understand correctly?”. If you hear “no”, this is the point where you ask for clarification and elicits honest feedback. You’ll either know you hit the nail on the head or that you need to backtrack to fully understand. And it builds trust with your prospect.
Ask relevant follow-up questions
The last step in active listening is usually a salesperson’s favorite, you earn the right – and the prospect’s engagement – to ask follow-up questions. After you’re sure you’re both on the same page, it’s time to dig deeper. Make the questions count. Don’t ask close-ended questions, as this tells the prospect that you’re only interested in hearing “yes”. Instead, ask open-ended questions to prompt them to elaborate on their goals and challenges.
Although it can take practice, becoming an expert in active listening can help your sales call tremendously. The process of active listening builds a relationship of trust and mutual understanding which will help build a lasting partnership with your prospect.
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