How to Listen Better When With a Customer

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Business woman with big ear photoMy wife Donna said the other day that I wasn’t a good communicator because I don’t listen to her.

At least, that’s what I think she said…I was on my iPad at the time!

It got me thinking about how we salespeople react when customers talk to us. We sometimes run an exercise on our sales courses where the trainer will read out what a fictitious customer is looking for in a supplier. Then the trainer will ask delegates to write down the main points the customer made.

It’s amazing the diversity of answers we get from delegates! Sometimes we don’t get the same answers from ANY of the delegates! Every single person hears something different to everyone else!

Here are some ways you can improve your listening skills when next with a customer:

1. Don’t talk too much: Yes, you know you’ve got twice as many ears as mouths, so use them in that proportion. How many times have you sold your product and then bought it back by talking too much? After you’ve sold the solution…stop. Listen to what they have to say.

2. Linked to the first point, we feel comfortable talking about our product, so we continue talking. Instead, get the customer to open up and make them feel comfortable talking about their company, their needs, their wants, their desires. That way, you get to know more. No-one ever got sacked for listening too much!

3. Resist the urge to interrupt. Many salespeople tell me they have to interrupt because they lose their train of thought. This is crass thinking. Design a way that helps you remind yourself of what you were going to say without interrupting. Practice at home or with colleagues, and then you’ll resist the urge when you’re with a customer.

4. Follow Steven Covey’s advice and ‘listen to understand’. Be careful not to prejudge. Slow the pace, if necessary, so you completely understand what is being said. You can’t prescribe a complete answer until you’ve got a complete diagnosis.

5. Take notes, summarise to yourself and confirm with your customer. That way, you and they know that you have been listening effectively and have got all the information. They will thank you for your close attention and you won’t have to apologise for getting something wrong.

Follow these simple tips and you won’t suffer the same fate as I did…a slap from Donna!

Happy Selling


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 31 January, 2011

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