Listening: Your Best Sales Tool

By: Thomas Young

If you are a sales and marketing professional and there is only one article you ever read and take action on, let it be this one. The most important skill you can develop is the ability to listen and understand customers. This may appear to be common sense, but if so, why is it lacking so much in today’s business world? Here are a few tips on the importance of becoming a great listener.

Be the Best Listener Your Customers Know
Your customers should perceive you as the best listener with whom they come in contact. They may not realize this consciously, but listening earns great amounts of trust and consideration. You become perceived as someone who takes a genuine interest in your customers and has a strong desire to help. In this way, you stand apart from the competition.

Listening is Hard Work
It takes emotional strength to listen. It goes against our natural instincts, which are to express our feelings and thoughts and relate our personal experiences to others. Just realize that most customers don’t care about our personal views and opinions; they want to know how are we going to help them. When you feel the strong urge to talk, don’t do it. This is the time to be quite and listen. Listening is hard work that pays off in the long run.

Listening and Understanding Builds Trust
Sales do not happen until a customer trusts you and your business enough to buy. Listening is the key to building trust and customer loyalty. In fact, listening is perhaps the best way to build trust during a sales transaction.Many sales people are not trusted simply because they do not listen enough. Be an excellent listener and build trust.

Use Probing Questions Like a Scientist
Use probing questions to understand your customer and determine how you are going to add value. Selling is both an art and science; it is creative and analytical. Develop the skills of a scientist as you qualify your prospects. Probe and explore like a scientist and listen and create solutions like an artist. Prepare your questions in advance and use them to direct the dialog and qualify your customer.

Listen Like an Artist
Imagine you are an artist searching for creative ways to help your customers. Create solutions by listening and determining how to help. Creativity comes when you are listening and focused. It is a combination of the scientist and artist that makes a great listener and top-level sales person.

Customers May Not Open Up
Customers will not tell you everything unless they trust you. They do not want to be seen as vulnerable and have you take advantage of them. Your challenge is to move them from the fear of loss to the desire for gain. This is done through building trust and meeting their needs. Listening, asking probing questions and creating solutions is the key to easing fear and increasing the desire for gain. Listening helps you find ways to add value.

Silence is OK
Many sales people talk because they feel silence is uncomfortable, to the contrary magic can happen in silence. During a silent period your prospect is often thinking of a question or pondering her or his next move. Let them think and understand that silence is OK. It is especially important to be quite after you ask for the close. Let the customer be the first to speak and you probably have a sale.

Get Inside the Head of Your Customers
Determine your customers’ hot buttons, or the specific things that will cause them to buy. Listening allows you to get inside the head of your customers and understand their hot buttons. You will then be better equipped to determine how you can add value to their busy lives. Always remember to listen more than you talk and you will develop a strong competitive advantage by becoming an incredible listener.

Tom Young, MBA is president of Sales Training Plus, a sales training and marketing consulting firm helping companies increase revenues. He can be reached at 719-481-4040, or e-mail at  tom@intuitivewebsites.com.