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Successful selling requires a delicate balance between talking and listening. While you need to provide enough information to communicate your product’s value, you also have to make sure your prospect feels heard.

Maintaining this back-and-forth is key to consultative selling, but listening involves more than just allowing your customer to speak. The most effective salespeople engage in active listening, allowing them to craft the most appropriate solution and win their prospects’ trust.

These six strategies will improve your active listening skills and help you become a trusted advisor in your prospects’ eyes.

1) Always ask for feedback.

Try to maintain a 2:1 ratio of providing product information to asking for feedback -- for every two benefits you present, ask your prospect one question that will let you know if you’re steering the conversation in the right direction.

Not only will this strategy allow you to course correct if you’ve gotten off target, it will also help you keep the correct balance between talking and listening.

2) Keep the presentation interactive.

Let’s face it -- presentations can be boring. Make sure your prospect experiences, feels, hears and/or sees your product or service. Incorporate as much interaction as your product allows for, and give your client ample opportunity to provide you with their feedback. Listen to the words they’re saying, but observe their nonverbal cues as well. Do they seem interested? Bored? Confused? Adapt your presentation accordingly.

3) Never speak for more than 50% of the conversation.

Salespeople typically enjoy talking, but the most successful sellers choose their words carefully and know when to quiet down. You’re more likely to make the sale when you can offer prospects the perfect solution to their challenges, and you can’t determine that unless you ask plenty of questions.

Prospects will appreciate the opportunity to participate, and your interaction will feel like a collaborative meeting, not a sales pitch.

4) Allow your prospect to finish their thoughts.

After your prospect finishes speaking, count to three before you reply or ask another question. The last thing you want to do is to step on your prospect’s words, or worse, interrupt them.

Sometimes, even when we appear to be listening, we’re thinking more about our next statement than giving thought to the other person’s response. Training yourself to pause will help focus your awareness where it needs to be -- on your prospect. 

5) Maintain a 3:1 statement-to-question ratio.

This ratio helps prevent a “data blast” that overwhelms your prospect. Asking questions also keep prospects involved and confirms that the information is relevant to their needs.

Here’s an example of this strategy in action.

Sales rep: “Our product has been approved by the regulatory committee. Its circuitry is state-of-the-art, and our research and development team indicates we’ll see a 22% return on investment for users. How important is state-of-the-art technology to you and your operation?”

6) Create a customized plan that addresses specific needs.

There’s no better proof that heard your prospect than to offer them a tailored solution that meets their criteria and solves the challenge that they’re facing.

If a particular feature is irrelevant to a prospect, it doesn’t matter how much your other customers use it -- it shouldn’t be a part of your presentation. You should have enough information so that you’re absolutely sure that what you’re presenting is valuable. So make sure you give prospects the chance to talk, take the time to listen, and then tailor your offering accordingly.

What active listening strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments below.

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Originally published Dec 7, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Sales Communication