Let’s face it: Listening is one of the most critical skills for sales success. It is no less significant than effective communication and interpersonal skills, or the ability to give spectacular presentations. Evidence suggests that a key skill to successfully selling is to ask a lot of probing questions, then listen carefully and patiently, while fully focusing on a prospect. Always remember: the sales process is not about you; it’s about your customer.
Listening well enables sales professionals to absorb all the crucial details and understand all the nuances presented at the meeting, then use that information to provide the best, most effective and suitable solutions for customers. Furthermore, there are words that are of great importance to a customer, the words that reflect their top priorities or help them express their feelings. Individuals who listen have the advantage of using these words as a powerful tool to improve the communication process and show commitment to their customers. This strategy will always give them the edge they need to set themselves apart and come out on top in a highly-competitive marketplace.
Sales professionals with poor listening skills typically fall short of expectations, fail to generate results and build long-lasting relationships with buyers. Their inability to LISTEN is at the core of disappointing outcomes. In fact, even some of the best and most efficient sales professionals fail to understand their customers if they do not listen carefully.
Through extensive research, Janek has identified a few common challenges outlined below that may impede the sales process and interfere with your ability to listen. Please keep them in mind as you are bracing up for your next sales meeting. We believe that avoiding the pitfalls below will encourage you to hone your listening skills and help you dramatically increase your chances of success.
- Lack of focus
During a sales interaction, some sales professionals think ahead about what they should say, mention or ask next, instead of concentrating on all the crucial points communicated by a customer. Faking interest or just maintaining the perception of being engaged may backfire, when the time comes to present specific solutions and move the sales process forward. Some sales professionals may fall into the trap of losing interest or becoming impatient when a customer speaks slowly or talks at length about a particular subject. In this case, it is wise to guide the conversation in the desired direction versus tuning the customer out.
- Engaging in selective listening
Without a doubt, selective listening is one of the most common and serious mistakes that sales professionals make. When they only pay attention to words that support their agenda, reinforce their perspective or are in sync with the direction they want the discussion to go, their offering is incomplete and may ultimately hinder the sales process. Therefore, when it comes to customer interactions, exceptional listeners typically focus on three important aspects of the communication process: content, meaning and feeling.
- Failure to speak up when something doesn’t make sense
To avoid potential misunderstanding or embarrassment later on, sales professionals should never disregard issues or topics they don’t fully understand. There is nothing wrong with asking a prospect to clarify a particular statement or idea. And it is better to do it sooner than later. In fact, this could be a great opportunity to prove that they are trying to understand, absorb and internalize every point and every issue that is being discussed during the selling process.
- Inability to properly interpret the customer’s vocal indicators
As you may know, every human interaction goes beyond words. Body language and vocal indicators may serve as a clue as to how the buyer feels about the sales interaction. Perceptive sales professionals should pay close attention to their customers’ body language, gestures, their tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, emotions, and other important signs of satisfaction or discontent. In certain situations, the ability to decode the body language and emotional indicators can make a difference between failure and success.
Listening is a key skill that cannot be underestimated and must be cultivated consistently.