Monday, June 9, 2014

'Active Listening' Essential To Making The Sale

Everyone knows how to listen. But top-of-the-line sales reps are Active Listeners. Active Listening refers to being engaged in the conversation and paying attention to what the contact is directly and indirectly telling you. You need to understand not only what they say, but their tone, their change in responsiveness, and what they don't say.

If done well, Active Listening can:
1. Help you accomplish your Business Outcomes and Emotional Outcomes for your call.
2. Help you identify as many Value Opportunities as possible to probe deeper to gain more information.
3. Reveal cues about how a contact is feeling. Often the cues are subtle. They contact may not state their thoughts and feelings explicitly about how they feel about you, your products/services, your company, and their own company.
4. Help you understand their personality type.
5. Help you identify potential issues with the customer before the issue is stated.
6. Shorten the sales cycle.
7. Help you know where to go next on the sales call.

Understand there are direct answers and indirect answers. A direct answer is a response that absolutely answers your question. An indirect answer answers your question but also includes important information to things outside of the question asked. The additional information may be important to advancing the account. For example, you ask a prospect if they will be available for a longer call next week. They say they will be out of town at their biggest trade show of the year. If you are actively listening, you should probe to understand details around that trade show and how it impacts their business. An indirect answer also includes their attitude or tone plus repeated phrases/words.

How You Actively Listen
1. Keep an open mind during the conversation -- don't assume what they are going to say next or what they're thinking. Don't anticipate an answer. Pay attention to what they're actually saying.

2. Be aware of what the contact wants to discuss. Don't simply follow your own set of questions. To get the outcomes, you'll have to steer the conversation; but don't hijack it.

3. Don't assume anything. Ask follow-up questions to gain a full understanding. If you believe you know the answer, say, "I think I know the answer to this but I'd like to clarify to be sure ..."

4. Sometimes, you have to let the contact talk for an extended period without interrupting them. In this case, Live Note Taking is critical. You must have a method for capturing and recalling the useful information the contact gives you.

5. Comment on what the contact is saying throughout the call -- that's the only way they know you're Actively Listening and engaged in the call. Your comment can simply be a reiteration of your understanding, or you can deliver value that is specific to the contact. Example: "So you're saying that you're outsourcing those responsibilities but you're not happy with their timeliness, and you're interested in us because we have an on-time guarantee. Is that right?" This confirms that what you heard is what the contact actually said and meant.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.
(6/21/10)