One of the most powerful ways to enhance your ability to sell with ease and success is to master the art of listening. When you learn to truly listen in any sales conversation, you lay the foundation of trust and rapport, uncover buyer needs, and help the prospect understand how you can help.
The trouble is, listening is not something most of us have been taught. Too often in a sales conversation, the salesperson is simply waiting for their turn to talk or thinking about what they will say next. To that end, think back to the last sales interaction you had with a prospect and ask yourself what percentage of the conversation were you talking and what percentage were you listening?
If you are like most it’s about 80% / 20% with most of the talking by you. To flip this habit and shine the spotlight on the prospect, it requires that you hone the skill of active listening.
Active listening techniques originate from a therapeutic context, which challenges the notion that listening is a passive act. It builds a shared understanding and deepens the connection.
When done properly, active listening guides the listener to adopt a curious and non-judgmental perspective that enables one to establish greater trust, understanding and connection, all of which are essential to any successful sales interaction.
The art of active listening includes four core techniques:
- Establishing a sense of rapport between the two parties, by giving the other party your full attention.
- Powerful questions that draw out details that are helpful to your understanding.
- Deepening your understanding through reflecting back and clarifying questions.
- Acknowledging the prospect prior to transitioning to the next step.
Listening To Build Rapport & Trust in Selling
When interacting with a prospect for the first time, it’s important that you create a space where they feel comfortable enough to explore the challenges they are facing and the shifts they want to see.
But to do this, we need to build rapport so that authenticity and vulnerability comes naturally into play. In short, we need to ensure the prospect feels seen, heard and understood.
When you bring this to your Discovery Sessions, you come from the belief that there is something special about this person you have an opportunity to get to know. They then feel your genuine interest in discovering who they are and in turn feel more open to letting you in.
When we judge another, we draw a conclusion that a person is either right or wrong, less than or more than. This not only clouds your ability to see the wholeness of who they really are, it also brings an energy to the encounter that blocks your ability to create rapport and trust. Instead, avoid the tendency to label things you learn about this person as good or bad, right or wrong.
When you approach each conversation with a sincere desire to strengthen your connection with your prospect, you will lay the foundation for a meaningful encounter and possibly a happy client.
The Art of Powerful Questions
The next skill, asking powerful questions, may seem simple, but in truth can contribute significantly to your success. In this step you will be asking questions that are…
- Open‐ended in nature (They can’t be answered with a yes or no.)
- Related to your area of expertise they are exploring solutions for.
- Inspired by a genuine curiosity and a sincere desire to learn about the prospect
Avoid adding too many questions beyond what’s included as this is not a coaching session but rather an exploration of how you can support them. Including too many questions could shift the tone and take the focus off the goal of the Strategy Session – to find out if there is a fit between what they need and what you offer.
The Art of Active Listening
When you listen with a sincere effort to understand the prospect, he or she feels appreciated and valued and is more likely to share details about themselves and their desires. Understanding their needs and making notes of the details they share will enable you to make the connection between their needs and your offer later on in the conversation.
Signs of “Active” Listening
- 100% focus on the prospect and all else is blocked out
- Hearing beyond the words to uncover what’s really happening for them
- Resisting the need to comment, relate or bring yourself into the picture
- Respecting the prospect’s feelings and needs – no matter what comes up
- Staying with the challenge, discomfort or pain so you have a true understanding
The Impact of “Active” Listening
- The prospect feels heard, respected, understood
- They are more likely to share what’s not working and what they truly want
- A deepening of your connection with the prospect
- You gather essential insights that will help you in the closing process
It’s at this step in the process that you will shift the focus from being primarily about the prospect to being more about how you can support them in creating the shifts they desire. It’s within this step that we want to accomplish three smaller intentions that will continue to build rapport and lay the foundation for a successful transition to the sale.
Affirm and Acknowledge
Affirmation will strengthen your connection and build the prospect’s sense of self‐worth and desire to work with you. When you affirm another person, you acknowledge the positive qualities, talents and accomplishments you are discovering about them. It’s a chance to honor what makes them special and unique.
When you look for and acknowledge the positive qualities you see in a person, you give them the gift of being seen and valued by another. This is important in the Strategy Session because it builds confidence and enhances self‐esteem – both of which are valuable as they consider taking on the goal of creating powerful shifts in your area of expertise.
It may sound something like this…
For a relationship coach…
“Karen, it has been wonderful getting to know you and learning about what you are really wanting in your relationship with your husband. What I admire most is your willingness to be honest about where you are and your courage to stand up for the kind of relationship you want for yourself and for your husband.”
For a business coach…
“Paul, while I know your business is not yet where you want it to be, I see your continual quest to hone new skills and your enthusiasm for the business vision you just described, are key elements that will fuel your progress toward your goals.”
Qualities you might acknowledge…
Clarify Their Desire
Reflecting back (sometimes called mirroring) is a phrase coined by the Coaches Training Institute to express the skill we use to ensure we understand what the prospect is saying. We do this by repeating back to the speaker exactly what you heard them say. The intent is to have them “hear” what they just said and confirm that’s what they intended.
Clarifying is a sub‐skill of reflecting back and is also used to be sure you understand what is being shared. However, with clarifying, we actually “paraphrase” what was said in an attempt to interpret the real meaning behind their words.
These skills aid the sales process by…
- Making the prospect feel heard and understood
- Showing respect and appreciation for the prospect
- Reducing their need to repeat themselves or ramble
- Bringing the main issues into sharper focus
- Helping them get even more clear about where they are and what they want
By checking in to see if we have an accurate understanding of where they are now and where they want to be, this step in the process might sound something like this….
“So Karen, I want to make sure I am seeing what you want to shift in your business.
The clarification statement: I hear that you are feeling frustrated by the lack of new leads coming into your business and wanting to create a reliable process that attracts people who match your ideal client profile and are looking for the kind of solutions you offer.
Is that true or is there something else at the heart of it?”
If you have never been trained in the skill of Active Listening, now is the time to begin to practice in all areas of your life. As a result, you will see your relationships deepen (both in and outside your work) your communication will become clearer and others will feel drawn to be with and work with you.
Enjoy the journey!!!
Jane Deuber is a business strategist with 33 years and 7 successful start-ups to her credit and helped over 15,000 entrepreneurs experience greater fulfillment and improved profits through her programs and products. To learn how Jane and her team can help you expand your reach and increase profits, check out her two companies, Global Experts Accelerator and Smart Biz Quiz.