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Listening

August 16, 2004
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LISTENING

Listening is more than being quiet when the client is talking. That is just a start and anyone who makes it in sales can do that fairly well. Effective listening is what you do with what you hear.

By Linda Richardson
The one thing almost everyone in sales would agree about is that salespeople love to talk. And we all know listening takes away from talk time. The other thing there would be little disagreement over is how critical listening is in sales.
Being an effective vs. efficient listener not only gives you the information you need, but it also helps you connect with clients. As you listen effectively, you encourage clients to share more, develop confidence in you, and connect with you. If you go to a party, who do you think is really great – the person who showed an interest and listened to you.
It is my experience that for every percentage a salesperson’s listening ratio goes over 50% of the call, there is a greater chance of closing. As a rule of thumb, listen at least 50% of the time in each sales call.
While of course all salespeople listen to some extent, listening is more than being quiet when the client is talking. That is just a start and anyone who makes it in sales can do that fairly well. Effective listening is what you do with what you hear.
For example, a client says, “We are looking to expand into new markets outside the city. I do have some reservations, but our board is totally sold on it.” About 3 out of 10 salespeople, because they are efficient listeners, provide their point of view rather than acknowledge and probe further. But effective listeners, the salespeople who sell in the “Advisor Lane,” pause, acknowledge first, and probe and ask, “Specifically what markets?” They continue to acknowledge and ask, “What are your reservations?” and acknowledge again and ask, “Why is the board so keen on this strategy?”
Your clients can tell if you are listening if you:
· Maintain eye contact (when face-to-face)
· Acknowledge or empathize with what the customer has said before giving your ideas
· Ask questions that drill down to learn more
· Incorporate customer’s words and language in your response – “Speak your customer’s language”
· Don’t interrupt
· Take notes of key ideas
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
· Bring them tailored solutions that resonate with them and make it easy for them to say yes
The bottom line is the best listeners give up airtime. They are on “receive” more or at least as much as they are on “send.” Listening takes focus and energy. It is not a time to rest or plan what you will say next.
Salespeople who are effective listeners go deeper and use what they hear. They are rewarded with clients who turn to them because they know they will be heard and, more importantly, helped.

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