Written by Sean McPheat |
We often get asked on our sales programmes how salespeople can improve their sales. They want the golden ticket, the one thing that will mean the million pound deal, the loyal customer, the added business.
Naturally, there isn’t just one skill that will be the ‘holy grail’; various things make up the top salesperson’s abilities to get results.
If there was one thing, though, that would make the biggest difference in the skills armoury of the salesperson, it would probably be the ability to listen effectively.
Listening is a vastly under-rated skill, one that is bypassed in many sales programmes, or glossed over as one part of the overall communication skills we all have to adopt.
However, for many reasons, it is the key to opening the door to sales, as it can set you apart from the plethora of salespeople who concentrate more on their product push than on actively getting the knowledge they require to know exactly what to push!
The way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.
In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.
You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.
If you’re finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say them – this will reinforce their message and help you stay focused.
To enhance your listening skills, you need to let the other person know that you are listening to what he or she is saying.
To understand the importance of this, ask yourself if you’ve ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying.
You wonder if your message is getting across, or if it’s even worthwhile continuing to speak. It feels like talking to a brick wall and it’s something you want to avoid.
You should also try to respond to the speaker in a way that will both encourage him or her to continue speaking, so that you can get the information if you need. While nodding and “uh huhing” says you’re interested, an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message.
What makes a great listener?
– They practice listening skills
– They keep an open, curious mind
– They link what they listen to with what they already know
– They find areas of common interest
– They resist external distractions
– They ask questions to clarify understanding
– They summarise often
– They analyse non-verbal signals
– They listen to content and emotion
I would say the most important item in that list is to ‘practice’ the skill of listening. The truth is you will never become perfect, but you can always improve and get better at this fundamental but vastly important skill that will make you so different to your competitor who is more interested in pitching than learning!
Originally published: 23 September, 2014