We would all agree that communication skills are of paramount importance when any discussion on the attributes of salespeople are discussed. It’s a continuous journey where you will never reach the end destination of perfection.
Among the plethora of skills required by a great salesperson, being able to listen effectively is right up there with the rest. Without that atrribute, you will crash and burn quicker than you might think.
While agreeing it’s a key skill, it’s still amazing how few actually display it to the level that is required to actually make a real difference. So, here are some ideas to make sure your listening skills are tip-top.
All you need to remember is the word LISTEN:
The first letter, L, reminds us that we should actively LISTEN and not just Hear.
Hearing is passive. You hear noise. Background noise is heard all the time and you are aware of it, if only at the subconscious level.
Listening is active. You concentrate and focus on it. You are consciously aware of it. When you listen, your attention is fully on the event. To do this properly, you have to consciously pay attention so that your internal chatter is quietened down. You can’t turn it off completely, but you can make it quiet so you can concentrate on what you need to listen to.
So, the first thing to do is actively decide to Listen, so your attention is on whatever is being said.
The second letter, I, stands for INVOLVE all senses.
This means you watch out for signals given via body language. listen out for tone differences and notice any kinaesthetic feelings that the other person sends out.
By concentrating on what isn’t said as much as what is , you get to read signals that the other may be sending at a subconscious level.
The third letter, S, stands for STRUCTURE. Listen out for how they structure the conversation.
There are basically five types of construct a person can make when communicating with you. You can remember them by recalling the vowels A, E, I, O and U.
A = Acknowledgement. Examples are “Thanks, Please, Well done, Yes, No, Not Now” etc, etc
E = Enquiry. Examples are Questions beginning with How, What, When, Why, Where, Who.
I = Information. Examples are when they give facts or inform you of a situation or answers to a question
O = Opinion. Examples are when they state their ideas or tell you their thoughts
U = Understanding. Examples are clarity questions, further examples of a point and providing proof
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By ascertaining which of these five constructs a person is using, you get a clearer idea on how to respond to what they have said.
The fourth letter, T, means TAKE STOCK of the meaning.
This means you stop and think through what the overall meaning is behind their thoughts and identify the purpose and intent they are offering. It gives you a fine sense of understanding and interpretation, so you are clear and happy you have completely understood what they are putting across.
Letter five, E, means that, if you haven’t fully understood what they are portraying, get them to EXPLAIN it more fully.
This involves you asking questions for clarification, or notice if they have employed any deletions, distortions or generalisations in their communication with you. It helps to maintain the clarity and ensures the information you have gleaned from the last section (Take Stock) has been adequately understood.
When this has been accomplished, you can apply the last letter, N. It stands for NEXT STEP.
When you are sure the other person has finished their ideas, you can decide what the next step should be. Should you ask more questions, clarify a point they made, dig deeper to understand clearer, or confirm your understanding of the situation? Or is it your turn to express ideas, further the conversation or add more fuel to the controversy?
What you decide to do as a ‘next step’ will determine the direction of the conversation and enable you to control which way you go from here. Spending time developing your listening skills will assist you to gain more knowledge, build awareness and encourage more expansive idea-generation, especially when you are with a prospect.