I took an interesting sales call the other day. I don’t know about you, but I tend to give sales people more time and I also like to test them. Anyway, the call was about an accident I had recently (which I didn’t) and it went something like this:

Me “Hello”

Sales Agent “hello sir I am calling about the accident you had recently right”

Me “Oh hello, what accident”

Sales Agent “hello sir I am calling about the accident you had recently right”

Me “Yeah I had an accident in the car this morning, I soiled my pants”

Mumbles and the sound of a headset being taken off and then replaced in the background

Sales Manager “Hello Sir, thanks for holding, you have just spoken to my colleague he has transferred you”

You can guess how the rest of the call went I am sure – I had a giggle and I also recorded the audio if anyone else wants to. It got me thinking though – how many people listen waiting for a trigger to sell rather than listening and waiting to hear an opportunity to help.

Listening is much more important than speaking these days in sales, 20 years ago you had to tell everyone about your product or service, these days potential clients know more than you about the features; however.

I have spent a lot of time and effort in learning how to listen effectively and wanted to share a few pointers that may be useful for you:

  1. Slow Down Bro

Sales reps can tend to be talkative people with lots of ideas and opinions – a characteristic that can sometimes lead into talking a thousand miles per hour. Take time to think and pause, it will help you to understand better and help your prospect to understand you too.

  1. Clarification is Cool

A huge part of listening closely to someone is the art of letting them know you are listening closely. The speaker will know you’re listening and will appreciate it, they will also build rapport with you faster. Be careful to be genuine here however and not simply repeat what they say. Ask to clarify points and repeat back to them what you have learnt.

  1. Don’t interrupt

Not only is interrupting often seen as rude, but it can also see you miss out on something interesting or very important your prospect would have said if you’d only given them the chance. They might have had other things to share that would help shape your conversation, allow you to pick up on a pain they have or make sure you don’t jump in and pitch the wrong thing. If you jump in as soon as possible then because you interjected you could lose any rapport by selling the wrong thing.

  1. Silence is Golden

When you can, take time to practice being in awkward moments of nobody speaking so you can lose your fear of silence. You’ll find that if you pause when your prospect is done speaking, they will often have something to add on that you never would have heard if you’d begun talking right away. Its also often the time when lots of sales people “drop their pants” when there is a moment of silence when a price is discussed or a question answered in the negative (eg “Do I get a free widget with this?” and the answer is no, sometimes sales people offer a widget to close the deal when its not a deal breaker it was just a question)

  1. Remember their anecdotes

You will stand out to your potential client if you remember little nuances from the conversation and refer to them later in the chat or even better in your pitch. When you take notes during your conversation, include those personal points so you can use them when you follow up later in the chat or later in the sales process. Referring to something someone is familiar with is massive when building “buy in”. Acknowledging these friendly references will help you build up rapport with your prospects.

Most importantly – practice listening as much as you practice talking!

By Leon McCowan

by 6th Door