“I’m listening” – Dr. Frasier Crane
For those of you fortunate enough to have seen the show Frasier, you already know the popular line above.
It’s what the always popular psychiatrist Frasier Crane would say when he started his talk show every day.
It is short and succinct. And it’s something we can all learn from. Because most of us in sales don’t listen enough. How many times do we find ourselves thinking about our day and all that we have to do while the prospect is talking to us?
Rather than focusing on the person in front, we are worrying about how we are late for our next meeting. We worry about how we don’t have time to have this conversation go on any longer because our day is slammed or over-scheduled.
And if that is not enough, we worry about all the leads, follow ups, reports, emails, and anything else on our agenda that day. We are all trying to move too fast, and in the process, we have forgotten one of the most basic things a prospect needs us to do.
He needs us to listen
While every conversation with a prospect will start off with common courtesies etc, our main goal should be to get the prospect talking. And not just about business either.
We want them talking about their personal life, how they got involved with the event they are planning, and anything else that comes up in the conversation.
In getting them to talk, we are going to begin to understand their story. We will get a better understanding of who they are and what makes them tick.
You see, every prospect has a story to tell
Whether they come in business attire or shorts, every one of our prospects has one thing in common.
They want to be heard.
If you want the prospect to love you, then listen to what they have to say. If you want the prospect to trust you and be loyal to you, then you need to let them talk.
It’s in these informal conversations that you’ll find nuggets of information that will help you bond with them. It’s here that you will find things that you have in common, things you’re both interested in, causes you both support. Listening is the first sign that you care.
And not just the fake kind of listening either
Because people can see that a mile away.
They can see our half hearted “uh-huhs”, and the glazed look in your eyes that tells them we’re bored. Whether we like it or not, our body language sends little messages that signal our indifference.
Prospects can see whether we are being genuine or just want to get the call or meeting over with. They can tell if we are interested in getting to know them and their needs versus chalking up just another sale.
It’s here that many of us lose the sale
Because when a prospect sees that we are not listening, they stop talking.
What we all need to be is genuinely interested in what the prospect has to say. We have to to be curious about their life, what brought them there, what their work related concerns are, what their non-work related concerns are, what their favorite sports teams are etc.
These are all the things that really matter to the customer
By listening, we are building a relationship with them. We are building rapport and that is going to help lead us to a deeper more meaningful discussion with your client.
And when they start telling you personal stories, you know you’re headed in the right direction. Because people who don’t like or trust will not entrust you with their personal stories. They won’t tell you that they snuck out of work early to buy chili fries or that their kid is a future Olympic hopeful.
Once they start giving you details like this, you’re heading in the right direction with the prospect because they feel they can trust you. And that trust will get you much further than anything else. It will help you convert more prospects into revenue.
Call centers know that listening works too
All call centers have a special department called the “save center”. This is where customers who are looking to cancel are sent to. The representatives that work in the save center try to “save” the company from losing a customer.
In a study conducted by McKinsey, one cell phone company save center hired people who demonstrated superior listening skills. What the study found was that within three months, the call center agents with better listening skills had save rates two to three times more that the rest.
Much like these cell phone call center agents, we need to start working on our listening skills.
So is there an easy way to listen better
There are lots of formulas that others have developed to help you listen better. You can just go online and Google how to listen better. Some are formulaic (e.x. Keep a ratio of once sentence for every two that the prospect speaks). Others will tell you to make lots of eye contact, etc.
While there are a ton of formulas, the method I use is very simple and uncomplicated. And it forces you to listen.
All you have to do is ask a lot of questions
That’s it. When you focus on just asking a lot of questions, your innate curiosity about things comes through. And when you know you’re going to be asking lots of questions, you also know you’re going to have to be listening (otherwise, you’ll run out of questions to ask).
Just focus on asking lots of questions, and not just the “touching the surface” type of questions. You can start with things like “Are you from around this area?” and the drill deeper. Once the prospect starts to trust you, he/she will let you into their world. And your conversations will be longer, deeper, and richer for it.
But doesn’t this waste a lot of time? Time that we don’t have
Spending time with a prospect will never be a waste of time. Most emails are a waste of time. Most social media is an even bigger waste of time. Many (not all) of the reports we create and maintain are a waste of time (especially when no one reads them).
But spending time with a prospect, no matter how long, is not a waste of time. Every minute the prospect spends with you is one minute less they are spending with your competitor. In fact, the longer you spend with each prospect, the better your chances of booking the business.
In summary, we all need to learn to focus our attention on the prospect
We need to stop worrying about our emails, reports and tasks when we are conversing with our prospects. Instead, we need to focus on listening. Just making that one change will make a remarkable difference in the number of prospects that convert into customers.
All you have to do is say “I’m listening”.
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