Better Listening Skills = More Sales


Today's business environment is intrinsically tied together byongoing information exchanges between two people. This personalcommunication is most often facilitated by the spoken word. Understanding this information, as it flows within a dialoguebetween two people is fundamental to improving one's sellingeffectiveness.

One of the most significant business information exchanges isbetween a company's front line sales representatives and eitherit's existing or potential customers. Information processedbetween these parties will have a significant affect on manyother employees within both party's respective companies aspurchase commitments are made.

Maximizing the effectiveness of aural business communicationbetween sales personnel and customers hinges on two fundamentalcommunication process components, talking and listening. Itmakes sense that no matter how well you articulate a message toa customer, if it is not effectively absorbed by your targetaudience the probability of sales success is greatly reduced.

Why Do Salespeople Tend to NOT Listen Well?

It is known that humans think faster than they listen. While asales prospect is talking at an average rate of 125 words aminute, the average salesperson is thinking at a much morerapid rate. The act of listening, the differential between thesalesperson's thinking rate and the prospect's speaking ratemeans the salesperson's brain can and does work with hundredsof other words, in addition to the ones being heard. Often thesalesperson is thinking about what they should or will say atthe expense of what the prospect is actually telling them.

The challenge at hand for all sales personnel is to learn howNOT to construct their ideas and responses during the mostcritical stages of their selling process. This is not easy todo given the sales prospect is also subjecting themselves tothe same listening distractions. It is no wonder so many salescalls "fall apart" after the salesperson missed a key pointmade by the prospect and consequently lost or never got theorder.

Many business professionals, especially those who make theirliving selling, depend greatly on their communication skills toenhance their overall job performance and maximize theirincome. Few salespeople have yet to even scratch the surface ofdeveloping their optimum listening skill potential. Many salesprofessionals have never had the opportunity to learn how tolisten most effectively.

Can A Salesperson Learn to Listen Better?

A comprehensive study completed at the University of Minnesotaexamined the listening ability of several thousand students andhundreds of business professionals. One of the primaryconclusions of this study was that immediately after theaverage person had listened to someone talk, they rememberedonly about half of what was actually said - no matter howintensely they attempted to absorb all the informationcommunicated.

Our basic inability as humans to listen effectively requires usto utilize continuous educational reinforcement to truly masterlistening skills not only in a business environment but on apersonal level as well. This means for a salesperson to be mosteffective in any selling situation a systematic effort must bemade to consciously attempt to concentrate more on what is saidto them, than what they will say in response ? this simplepriority of aural information exchange elements will provide asignificant selling advantage in almost every possible sellingscenario.

Prioritizing listening over talking in a sales situation iseasier said than done. It takes training and ongoingintegration into any selling technique process.

Listening Skill Development Should be in All Sales Training

Any training, especially sales training, should improvelistening skills development. Like any skill set, practice in acontrolled setting can not only build self awareness oflistening deficiencies, but it can reinforce required skills toleverage other, associated selling tactics integrated in thesales process. As Vince Lombardi once said, "It's not practicemakes perfect, its PERFECT practice makes perfect!"

Six Steps to Improving Selling Listening Skills

Again, with practice and conscious resolve, a salesperson canacquire the mental agility to become a better listener bymastering these six "mental listening exercises":

1) Learn to "listen ahead":By "listening ahead", trying to anticipate where a discussion isleading to, during the dialogue, determining the conclusion inadvance of your required response allows you to relax andimprove information absorption

2) Learn to periodically validate communicated information:By mentally striving to validate the accuracy and completenessof information points made by the prospect, especially duringpauses in the dialogue, (which can be achieved with notetaking), you can allow yourself to absorb more informationeasier, especially information forthcoming in the continueddialogue

3) Utilize "Active Listening" techniques:By periodically, mentally summarizing the major pointscommunicated by the prospect and voicing, reaffirming yourinterpretation of the points made back to the prospect you adda tremendous amount of clarity to the information exchangedthus far

4) Strive to understand versus "Judging":By working to consciously understand what the prospect is sayingversus the natural tendency of judging - approving ordisapproving what is said will allow you to absorb what isactually said more than any other listening developmenttechnique

5) Use your eyes to "get the rest of the story"By listening with your eyes, paying attention to the prospect'sbody language, their nonverbal facial and body movements orhand gestures you can see what the whole body is trying to tellyou, not just the mouth!

6) Maintain a mental repertoire of common responses:By mentally developing and rehearsing how you are going tostrategically respond to common sales prospect purchaseobjections, for example, in advance of a sales call, allows youto listen more effectively. A comprehensive mental inventory ofcommon responses will also give you more confidence in anyselling situation.

Today's successful salesperson is ultimately an effectiveproblem solver. Whether it is an existing or potentialcustomer, the most successful sales people continuously striveto hone their listening skills to accurately define theircustomer's business intentions. If properly trained, and withconstant practice, a salesperson will quickly realize that howthey talk or present their product or service is relativelyunimportant when compared to how and what they listen to, whenguided by well honed listening skills.

Applying the selling skills developed from these listeningexercises can give extraordinary power, not only to the spokenword, but the words listened to, and may be, in practice, provide the only margin of victory in any given salessituation.

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