“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
It seems like Stephen Covey was speaking directly to salespeople when he wrote those words in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People because it fits what some of them do perfectly. Some salespeople barely listen to what a customer has to say, focusing instead on their reply.
Why salespeople don’t listen
Here are the major reasons why salespeople don’t listen:
- The prefer speaking to listening.
- They’re too anxious to rebut the prospect’s argument or objection.
- They allow themselves to get distracted and don’t concentrate.
- They jump to conclusions before all the evidence is in.
- They try so hard to remember everything that the main points are lost.
- They dismiss much of what they hear as irrelevant or uninteresting.
- They tend to discard information they don’t like.
How to improve your listening skills
Six tips to improve your listening skills:
- Ask questions. Then try to be quiet and let customers get their entire points across before you say anything.
- Pay attention. Tune out distractions and concentrate on the prospect.
- Seek out hidden needs. Use questions to bring hidden needs out into the open.
- If your prospect gets angry, don’t counter-attack. Keep your cool and hear him or her out.
- Look at your prospect. Pay attention to body language to pick up on buying signals.
- Use feedback. Repeat what you’ve just heard to confirm accuracy and prevent misunderstandings.
The most successful salespeople listen 70% to 80% of the time so they can customize the presentations for their prospects or customers. Listening to a customer’s agenda is the only way for a salesperson to determine how his or her product or service can meet the customer’s needs.
Don’t assume. It’s usually not a good idea to make assumptions about what customers are looking for during a sales all. Instead of making assumptions, top closers ask questions to uncover why customers buy and how their buying process words. Salespeople who make too many assumptions may eventually lose business.
Find hidden needs
It’s up to the salesperson to listen carefully to uncover any hidden needs that aren’t being addressed. They have to provide solutions before a competitor does. Customers expect salespeople to be a valuable resource for them. Value comes from making a continuing contribution to customer success.
Look beyond immediate results
Long-term thinking is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Getting yourself to look down the road is a key to future success. Without such concern, there’s often a failure to recognize that the marketplace is changing and business may disappear as a result.
Be accessible in a way that goes beyond cell phones and email. It’s not when you want to contact the customer that counts — it’s when the customer wants to contact you that matters.
Source: John Graham, CEO of Graham & Associates, a sales and marketing firm based in Quincy, MA.