Have you even been witness to the following scene? A couple of parents proudly observe their child as she confidently chatters away and then state with certainty: “She’s bound to be a salesperson when she grows up!” Well I am sorry to tell you, dear parents, that you have identified the wrong feature … perhaps your child may grow up to be a seller, but if she wants to succeed in this profession, she will be needing a different talent. How many times have we been cornered by salespeople or shop assistants who never stop talking, leaving us stunned and more confused than before?
A good salesperson is primarily an excellent listener, someone who knows how to stay quiet, leaving his customer the space to express his/her wishes and only speaking after fully comprehending the needs and desires of his interlocutor.
An insecure or inexperienced seller may well talk fast and keep up a flow of words because he is afraid of forgetting something or being interrupted with a question he cannot answer. The vain seller, on the other hand, loves the sound of his own voice and wants to stage a one-man show, with the customer being forced into the role of spectator. By contrast, a conscientious seller devotes himself to his customer by adopting a receptive attitude with his ears, eyes and heart, preparing to gather all the information on which to subsequently base his sales arguments, like a skilled detective. So how do you really and truly listen?
Photo by Brina Blum by Unplash
Here are 3 suggestions you can put into practice immediately:
1. Take an interest in the person in front of you
Curiosity, openness, a desire to understand and the willingness to learn something new – all these elements will help you to transmit a sincere interest in the other party. This will lower the initial barrier of mistrust, helping you to establish a climate of positive and satisfying exchange for both. If, on the other hand, you are thinking about what arguments to put forward, what response to give or you are in a hurry to express your own opinion, your ability to listen will suffer and the scene will take on a different form: you the seller, lost in your thoughts, while your customer is giving a monologue that nobody is listening to. In this case an essential part of the customer’s message – the words, the mood being expressed and the body language – will be irretrievably lost.
2. Avoid finishing your customer’s sentences for her
We are always in a rush, the pace of life is relentless, why waste time listening when after a couple of words we think we have already understood what the customer wants to tell us?
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There are many good reasons to let your customer speak freely and to only respond when she has finished.
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First of all, you may have misinterpreted her intentions, giving rise to a series of misunderstandings that will mean you both waste time and risk becoming flustered or annoyed. Suppose instead that, thanks to your experience or intuitive powers, you have actually anticipated your customer’s intentions: interrupting her will, in any case, prevent her expressing herself freely and in the time and way she most desires, making her feel inadequate or indicating that you are in a hurry. In any case, you will have failed to appreciate how she chooses to express herself thus making it impossible for you to judge whether this person is self-assured or indecisive, calm or anxious and receptive, or not, to your arguments…
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3. Stay silent
To listen, it is necessary to be silent. Yes, you should hold your tongue and overcome the irrepressible desire to interrupt or comment or what your customer is saying in order to correct a misinterpretation or to state your opinion. However, your silence will always be vigilant and receptive, more than just remaining quiet.
Yet salespeople are often afraid of being silent (“What if the customer thinks I don’t know what to say?”, “What If he makes an objection and I can’t answer?”). Thus, they continue to talk while those in front of them are silently begging them to have the opportunity to express their own opinions or to give free rein to their doubts. The customer might even want to say, “I’ll have it”, but he can’t get a word in edgeways and the salesperson finally concludes with a suicidal sentence like, “OK … why don’t you think about it!”
If we learn to really listen, our sales will be simpler, more rewarding and will guarantee customer loyalty.
We “just” need a little training, plenty of patience and a sincere passion for people. What a rare privilege it is to find someone who really listens to us!
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