Understanding customers is crucial to your sales success. Understanding relies on two skills; questioning, which we looked at last week and active listening, which we look at this week.
We remember between 25 – 50 % of what we hear and most of us hear but don’t listen. We get distracted by the environment, are getting a killer response ready or our attention wanders. The result is that we miss the opportunity to understand our customer fully.
Active listening often helps; try some of these techniques and see which ones work for you. The first step is to pay attention, it seems obvious, but how often have you sat in a meeting, there physically, but your mind is on other things? Try looking at the speaker directly, put aside distracting thoughts and avoid being distracted by environmental factors. Focus on your customer's non-verbal language, can you pick anything extra up for it?
Show that you are paying attention. Use your body language and gestures to convey your attention. Nod occasionally, smile and use other facial expressions, note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like mmmm, and uh-huh. Try to avoid leading the customer with over positive yes and nos. Many people tend to tell people what they want to hear and pick up on your positive or negative vibe.
Provide feedback, reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. Ask questions to clarify specific points like "What do you mean when you say" or "Is this what you mean?" and summarise the speaker's comments periodically.
No matter how much you disagree with what your customer is saying, curb your killer put-downs and respond appropriately. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down. You may win the argument by a knockout but will probably lose the client