Before it traveled to the world of sales, the term “active listening” was used primarily by counselors. An important tenet of effective communication, they argued, was being able to listen attentively, empathetically and responsively. You can’t do that if you are blabbering the entire time, nor can you do that if, when the other party is speaking, you are simply waiting for your turn to speak.
You can see, then, how the term naturally came to be useful among salespeople. An unfortunate impulse among some salespeople is to try and cram as much about a product or service into a conversation with a prospect. After all, many people get into sales because they have the gift of gab. But in order to become a more effective salesperson, sometimes it’s best to listen actively.
However, you choose to communicate with prospects, active listening is an important principle. Your business can rely on email communication, on social media communication, your business can use cold calling software with auto-dialing – but the same principle holds true. This post will serve as an introductory look at active listening: what it is, how it benefits salespeople, and how to listen actively.
What Is Active Listening?
As it pertains to sales, active listening is a communication technique used by salespeople to learn more about a prospect, while conveying interest, demonstrating empathy and developing a rapport. You do this by holding back your words and allowing ample space in the dialogue for prospects to talk about their goals, objections, pain points, etc. You demonstrate that you are listening to them – really listening – and then craft responses that address what they have said.
The Benefits of Active Listening
Put inversely, the drawbacks of not actively listening are: you don’t retain much important information about a client; you come off as uncaring and pushy; and you fail to develop any meaningful relationship with the prospect. But let’s focus on the positives. When you actively listen, you:
- Learn more about the prospect, information that can be used down the pipeline to close the sale.
- Develop a rapport that is built on communication and empathy. You are not there to talk about your product; you are there to talk about how your product solves a prospect’s problem.
- Demonstrate your value over the competition, because you show that you have their best interests in mind.
How to Be an Effective Active Listener
It should come as little surprise that the first step in active listening is, well, listening. Not pretending to listen while you formulate your next point, but truly processing every word the prospect is saying.
Then, in order to demonstrate that you have been listening, you can summarize what they have said, and paraphrase it in your own words. This shows them that you understand what they are saying, rather than just hearing the words. Finally, you can formulate questions based on what you have learned and speak about your product as it relates to their needs.
Rapport-building is an important part of sales, one that goes overlooked by salespeople who talk the ears of their prospects. To become a better salesperson, or to get more mileage out of your sales team, consider the prospect – consider listening.
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