Yes, effective selling does equal effective listening. So, then it’s safe to assume that a customer will not buy a product or service that they do not need. But how often are we not really listening to prospect or a customer, making a big assumption about what we “think” they need. Old school selling was based on assumptions and the latest selling techniques and strategies for getting customers or prospects to think they needed something, when they really did not. New school selling is truly listening to our customers and understanding what they “actually” need. We are all sales people to one degree or another. Even when we’re embedded in operations, accounting or some other functional areas. Often we are selling our own ideas for product or process improvements to management. So, true listening is a skill that all of us need. Most of us have had many years of learning how to read and write, and to speak. But the irony is that we are not taught how to listen. Whether it was in school or in business.
So, what is effective listening? How do we know that we are understanding what the other person is saying or thinking? Effective listening shows respect for the other person and that you truly listening to what they are saying. You’re not offering any judgments or opinions, or jumping in with your own perspectives. You are ensuring that the person has completed their thought. Effective listening begins with focusing on what others’ are saying and demonstrate to the other person through body language and asking relevant questions. Increased rapport and trust will occur since the other person senses that you are really listening to them. They might seem more positive or happy as they continue talking to you.
Why is effective listening challenging? Because most people are more focused on what they’d like to say and how are intending to respond, rather than on what they are actually hearing. Effective listening will take time to practice where you become more fluent. Several studies have shown that we are distracted or forgetful 75% of the time when we should be listening. Right after after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50% of what is said. And then long-term memory, shows we only remember about 20% of what we hear. Not very much is it? Our goal is to drastically increase that percentage of understanding.
How do we perform effective listening (so we will be more effective at selling)?
1. Clear your mind of all current distractions. Even assumptions and observations about the other person.
2. Listen with your eyes and ears. Many people smile with their eyes. Do you? Lean forward with your body.
3. Place your entire focus on the speaker.
a. Listen to their words, both what is said and how it is said. Notice their body language. Distractions will float into your conscience; and you need to let them go. Minimize distractions by continuously refocusing your attention on the speaker.
4. Once the speaker has completed their thought. Ask them if they’re done with that thought.
5. Once the speaker has finished, then ask questions.
a. If you ask questions throughout their speaking, it interrupts their train of thought. Ask clarifying questions (from the speaker’s perspective), not probing questions (from your own perspective).
6. Repeat the understanding that you have. Empathize with the speaker and how they may have felt.
7. Ask what seems the most challenging. Or ask what would be the most helpful. What has worked in the past? Where could they now use help?
8. Offer possible ideas or strategies. Ask them what they think?
9. Try adapting your ideas with theirs. Definitely a “win/win”.
PLEASE NOTE: And please know that you will not master the art of listening overnight. It will take time and much practice to develop your listening muscles.