Have you ever had that experience when you had to buy a person a gift and you had no idea what to buy them? How frustrating is that! So you go to a shopping mall and look around hoping to get some inspiration.
You walk into a store and you are jumped by a salesperson who asks if they can help. You respond by saying “just looking thanks”. They either leave you alone or they show you a few products anyway. You say to them… “Not quite right, I’ll keep looking thanks.”
Then you walk into another store and the salesperson asks how they can help you. You tell them you are looking for a gift for someone but you don’t know what to buy. They ask you some questions about the person you are buying the gift for.
- “Tell me about the occasion?”
- “Who is the gift for?”
- “Is it for a female or a male?”
- “What age group are they in?”
- “What do they like doing in their spare time?”
- “What special interests or hobbies do they have?”
- “What is their favorite color?”
- “What price range are you comfortable spending?”
- “When do you need the gift for?”
Before you know it, you walk out with the perfect gift for them.
Several things happened.
The first salesperson asked a yes no question. “Can I help you?” – “No you can’t I’m just looking thanks!”
The second salesperson asked “How can I help you?” A completely different question. Just using the word how requires you to tell them why you are there, which is to find a gift for someone.
The other thing the second salesperson did well was, ask you about the person, their likes, dislikes, age, sex and a few other questions. They used open-ended questions which mean you couldn’t give a yes or no answer. By doing this they were able to find out more about the occasion, the person and their interests which meant the salesperson could make appropriate suggestions for a gift. Bang – before you know it, you found the right gift.
They listened intently to what you had to say and that’s why they were able to make recommendations that you were happy with.
In other words – they asked open-ended questions and actively listened for the answers.
Become an active listener to increase your sales
When someone wants to buy something like a gift, they don’t want a gift, they actually want you to solve a problem. Their problem is, they need a gift. More than the gift, they want the gift to have an emotional impact on the person receiving it. This is what they are really buying. They are not buying a gift, they are buying the experience the gift will bring to the recipient. They want the other person to feel appreciated or celebrated if it’s a birthday or anniversary. They may want to cheer the person up if they are ill or say sorry for hurting their feelings. Perhaps they want to show their appreciation for a job well done.
This is what they are buying – not the gift itself.
Asking effective questions gives you a clue as to what the buyer is looking to achieve. More importantly, carefully listening to the answers to the questions will get you closer to understanding more about what a prospective buyer is looking for.
When meeting with a prospective buyer for the first time, asking in-depth questions (without interrogating them) helps you build trust and confidence because the buyer gets the feeling that you are there to help them, not sell them. Once you have their trust and confidence, you can move them through the buying and selling (Bi-Sell-Cycle™) process and price becomes less of a factor in their decision to buy from you. They begin to see the value in what you are offering.
The best questions to ask are open-ended questions. Questions that begin with, who, where, what, why, when, how and tell me about. Open-ended questions allow a prospect to expand on a subject whereas a closed question that starts with is, can, will, does, do, shall, could and would elicit a yes no response or a one word response which has a tendency to shut down a conversation.
Ask questions and listen to the answers
Buyers are motivated by two things. To avoid pain or gain rewards. They come to you with a problem they want solved or an opportunity they want to explore. By asking questions and listening to their answers, this helps you unlock the real reason they are looking to buy. What you are in fact doing, is uncovering their dominant buying motive.
Listening is not the same as hearing!
Listening isn’t as simple as it sounds. Listening is a different process from hearing. Listening is a far more complex process than hearing. Hearing is a physiological sensory process that involves sounds being received through the ear canal into the brain.
Listening involves the communication process which is about sending and receiving messages. Not all messages sent are received in the manner in which they were intended. Think about the number of times you see people get into arguments because they have misinterpreted what the other person has said.
Active listening involves interpreting a message that has been sent and listening to understand. Not only listening to understand, confirming what the other person is saying by reflecting back and paraphrasing to ensure the message received, is in fact the message being sent.
How to listen actively
Active listening is extremely helpful in building trust and rapport with a prospective buyer. Active listening only happens when you make a conscious decision to listen to the prospect. Quite often buyers expect salespeople to talk over them and not listen to what they have to say. By listening carefully, it stops you from jumping to conclusions because you are totally committed to fully understanding the message behind what the prospect has to say. This means:
Active listening means using attentive body language like nodding your head, keeping good eye contact and proactively engaging in the conversation. It means you are fully focused on the prospective buyer where they have your full attention by not looking around the room while they are talking. You must be aware of your facial gestures throughout the conversation. You wouldn’t want to have a big grin on your face if they were talking about something sad or challenging. Equally you don’t want to be frowning if they were telling you something positive. Always let them finish before you start talking.
When conversing with a prospective buyer, it’s easy for them to tell if you are following the conversation. You use phrases like – “that’s interesting, tell me more” or you ask a question related to what they are telling you. Your facial gestures will also give them a clue if you are following them by smiling and frowning at the appropriate times.
You can encourage them to continue simply by asking them to continue talking or explain what they are talking about in more detail. You might smile, nod your head or lean in towards them – all signals that you are totally focused on what they have to say.
Reflecting back what the prospective buyer has to say is a key skill of active listening and the perfect way to avoid misunderstandings. It’s the same as giving them feedback. You might say something like, “It sounds as if you are having a problem driving your sales is that correct?” What you are essentially doing is reflecting back what they have told you, and checking for understanding and that you heard them right. If you didn’t, the prospective buyer has the opportunity to clarify possible points of difference.
To ensure you have heard the prospective buyer and understood the message, you also need to paraphrase what they have told you, both the feeling and the content. This ensures you have understood them correctly. If you haven’t, it gives them the opportunity to clarify what they mean. For example: “Correct me if I am wrong. What you are telling me is that your sales are down by 25%. You don’t know why and this is causing you to feel quite stressed. Is that right?”
Why active listening increases your sales
People don’t buy from people they don’t like.
What active listening does is increase your ability to build and maintain rapport with your prospective buyer. The more they talk – the more they like you.
Have you ever had that experience where you met someone for the first time and before you know it, you have been talking to them for ages because you were talking about something that really interested you? More than that, the other person seemed really interested in what you had to say. You come away from the encounter feeling like you have known them forever and you just clicked. The interesting thing is – you did all the talking and yet you liked the other person for listening. That’s called rapport!
Without building and maintaining rapport, it’s hard to sell your products and services to a prospective customer. Being in rapport is a way to get prospects to like you. As I said, the more they talk, the more they will like you and all you you did was actively listen to what they had to say. If they like you, chances are they will want to buy from you.
Active listening also gives you clues as to what a buyer’s needs are. Often if you let them do most of the talking, they will reveal helpful information spontaneously indicating they have a problem or an opportunity. Actively listening for these clues will aid the sales process because you are uncovering hidden needs that even the prospect is unaware of.
On a final note
By developing active listening skills, this will enable you to build rapport, develop trust and confidence, uncover buyer needs and close more sales.
In A Nutshell
Active listening increases understanding with a prospective buyer as you pay close attention to what they are telling you and repeating back the important points of the conversation.
- Ask open-ended questions to find out more about the buyers circumstances
- Listen carefully to the answers to uncover what their real needs are
- Listen actively by Attending, Following, Encouraging, Reflecting and Paraphrasing
- Check for understanding and clear up any misconceptions
- Let them do most of the talking