Are you actively listening when a customer or prospect is talking to you? The hard truth is, most people are not actually listening. You might be hearing a series of words being said but that doesn’t mean you are actually listening. Active listening is an essential skill which can be developed through various tactics. It can play an important role in helping you get ahead in your career, and it is a skill that can be acquired with a little patience and practice.

In fact 70 – 80% of our day consists of listening; that is almost your entire day. This is what makes active listening a critical skill in both our personal and professional life. Active listening basically means understanding and interpreting the words. The University of Colorado describes active listening as: “A way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding.”

Active listening is critical when your job involves conversation and communication with clients/prospects. According to Symmetry Financial Group, it is one of the most essential attributes you need in sales. It is crucial for sales managers to coach their sales reps on the art of listening to prospects. It is one of the quickest ways to improve their sales performance. Here are some powerful active listening tips to teach your sales people:

 

Be present

If you are meeting with a client/prospect, nothing is more distracting or rude than being on your phone during a meeting. It is important to limit any other distractions that might detract from the meeting and take your attention away. For example: you can close blinds, shut the door to your office, or turn off any music. The key is to create a calm atmosphere that will push you to be attentive and present in the meeting.

 

Slow the conversation down

Very often, we come across sales reps that tend to be talkative people with lots of ideas and opinions – a characteristic that leads to talking faster. However, talking quickly can only hurt your relationship with your prospect. This might cause them to lose interest or get stressed out. Articulating your thoughts at a reasonable speed can be a solution to that issue. For instance, take the time to pause in case they need clarification, ask questions to guide and help shape what they share, and never interrupt them.

 

Make the client feel heard

This is an important trait that ensures the person to whom you are listening actually feels heard. One way to make someone feel heard is to repeat what the person has said during the conversation. For instance: rephrase their comments or questions in your own words in order to ensure that you not only heard but understood them.

 

Don’t interrupt

This is the worst mistake you can make. Firstly, this will make your client lose respect for you. Secondly, this will make them feel like what they have to say and their opinions aren’t important to you. Hence, interrupting will quickly lead to a lost opportunity for you.

 

Don’t be defensive

It can happen that your client say something that doesn’t align with what you believe. The best way to deal with this is to listen and then continue with a solution-based conversation. Instead of trying to convince them of your opinions; you should be trying to help them find the solutions that fit their needs.

 

Ask questions

Sales people know how important it is to ask questions to narrow down the prospect’s points, especially at the beginning of the conversation during the information-gathering phase. It is important to spend the first part of your conversation asking the right questions to get a grasp of who your prospect is and what their business problems and goals are. The key is not to assume anything and fill any knowledge gaps by asking more questions. Follow-up questions show your prospect you are listening carefully and care about what they say.

 

Listen to emotions

Sometimes, words are not always an accurate representation of what a person feels. You might think that it is hard to interpret conversation over the phone because you lose the ability to read a person’s body language – but it is possible. You can start recognizing the tone of voice and stress levels. One thing you can do is to practice during your conversations with co-workers and learn to recognize how the volume, speed, and tone of people’s voices indicate how they’re feeling. Hence, on every sales call, make it a goal to think about what the person might be thinking behind their words.

 

Conclusion

Active listening is a learned and practiced skill that will open up new selling opportunities that you may have never noticed. It allows you to receive and process valuable information that might have been missed or neglected otherwise. Hence, investing the time needed to sharpen your listening skills is a good idea. An innovative sales training can help you greatly to develop your active listening skills for more sales growth.

Watch our sales training demo video for active listening behaviour: