Written by Sean McPheat |
Probably the most important skill to develop as a sales professional is the ability to communicate effectively with prospects and clients.
There’s little doubt that spending your time improving your communication skills is time very well spent, and you’ll never perfect it; it’s one of those skills that will always enable you to improve your relationships with everyone you come into contact with.
But it’s a massive area of development, and sometimes people struggle to determine what they should concentrate on in order to improve.
Should you develop your questioning skills?
Would improving your closing skills be more appropriate?
How about learning to recognise buyer styles?
While all these are fundamental to the communication process, there is one communication skill that stands head and shoulders above others, and you’ll know this already if you’ve ever had dealings with prospects and clients.
Of course, it’s the skill of listening.
Why would this be so important?
Because if you don’t listen effectively, there will always be a limit as to how helpful you will be for clients.
Being a great listener actually improves the overall relationship because the client feels their opinions and ideas are important, and makes them want to share more information with you.
Have you ever spoken with someone who constantly interrupts you and is only interested in what they want to say all the time?
Have you wanted to share mush information with them?
How can you improve this key communication skill?
Well, firstly remember that it is impossible to talk to yourself and listen at the same time.
The voice in your head will automatically drown out what the other person is saying.
So try to minimise the self-talk that is a natural part of human interaction.
Concentrate and focus on the meaning that the other person is trying to put across.
Don’t just listen to the words; listen to the intent and meaning behind them.
Identify the emotions the person is putting across.
Are they frustrated with their current position?
Do they feel anxious at new changes and challenges that they are facing?
By listening to the context as well as the content, you will get a clearer picture in your mind of what they are saying.
Listening can be carried out at various levels.
If you are a surface listener, you will only hear words and you will be tempted to jump in with solutions before you have got the whole picture.
If you’re a shallow listener, you may get some of the ideas the person is expressing but your understanding will only be at the level that the other person is willing to share.
Most, if not all, conversations contain elements of deletion and distortion that will require you to make judgements or fill in the details form your own point of view.
Listening at a deep level will ensure a complete and thorough understanding of the other person’s ideas and thoughts.
Deep listening requires you to put yourself in their shoes, adapt to their views and consider their opinions.
It allows you to be really clear on what they mean and feel.
It offers opportunities for you to ask questions that uncover information and meaning that may have been left hidden if you hadn’t asked.
Being listened to intently and deeply gives the other person the time to think of issues that are really important to them.
By ensuring you allow the prospect time to consider new concepts and perceptions, you get to a deeper level of understanding of the challenges they are facing, before you can prescribe answers to their specific and individual concerns.
So, listening is the one skill that, if developed and improved over time, will help you become a sales professional who not only learns a lot, but also is able to assist clients at a level they hadn’t experienced before.
Originally published: 20 September, 2017