Think back to a conversation you’ve had with a friend or colleague where it seemed like they were consistently jumping in and saying something every time you stopped to take a breath. How were you feeling during the conversation? Most would agree, it’s beyond frustrating. And while you have heard us say on our blog time and time again, how important active listening is to sales, many of us in sales are probably guilty of that one very bad habit, interrupting.
We get it. As a salesperson, it’s natural that we want to clarify points the customer mentioned or ask questions when things don’t add up. But from the customer’s point of view, it can appear that we’re not listening, that we’re not giving them the opportunity to process information, and worse off, it may make them feel like what we have to say is more important than what they are communicating.
Before we go further, I think it is important to clarify a point. Active listening does not mean handing the conversation over to the customer and letting them run free with it. This is not good sales and can be just as costly. The customer may end up monopolizing the conversation and you will have no time to deliver information that you feel would be valuable, or worse yet; not ask the questions to help identify the customers’ needs, pains, or priorities. But there are tactful ways to get the conversation back on track if you find yourself interrupting. So let’s dive in.
If you don’t understand something the customer is saying, resist the urge to interrupt. Instead, make a note of it. Once a natural break in the conversation occurs, you’ll have a reminder of what you didn’t understand. Taking notes also allows the customer to finish what they were saying, which may clear up your questions, and it gives you time to consider whether your question or correction is really necessary (or appropriate).
Remember that annoying friend we talked about earlier? Pauses are not when the customer goes to take a breath. Instead of risking interrupting them, wait a few seconds before you jump in. While you may feel self-conscience or feel like there is an awkward silence, the customer will appreciate you giving them the time to gather their thoughts. If a couple of seconds have gone by and your customer does not resume talking, now you may proceed but give them time first.
Listen to Your Recorded Calls
Recorded calls are not just for sales managers, they are great for salespeople as well. Recorded calls provide a great opportunity for you to listen to how you interact with a customer. If you are taken aback when you listen to yourself, chances are your customer was as well. Make notes of instances where you think you could have done better. Try counting how many times you interrupted the customer and write down the reason why you did it. Was your interruption well-intentioned or did you jump the gun and make assumptions about what the customer was going to say?
Practice Stopping Yourself
We’re all going to slip up every now and then. We’re human. What’s important is that we realize we made a mistake and try to correct it. If you find yourself interrupting a customer, acknowledge it. It’s okay to say, “I apologize for interrupting, please continue.” Your customer will appreciate your ability to be self-aware and accountable for your mistakes.
So the next time you find yourself going to interrupt someone, stop, resist the urge. With some practice and self-reflection of how interrupting may hurt sales, you can fix this habit and still maintain control of the conversation.