AS MORE of our communication is done through social media posts, more distractions vie for our attention and more demands on our time make it harder to make commitments, listening is the communication skill we can all get better at.
If you can show yourself to be a better listener in sales and customer service, you will go a long way towards distinguishing yourself and your organisation in a way that has customers coming back again and again.
Your customers will feel that:
• You seem to listen to them more; and
• You seem to understand them better.
And, of course, the two are linked. If customers think you understand them better than your competition, it is in their interest to come back to you because:
• You value them more;
• It is easier to deal with you; and
• You will suggest better solutions.
All these are the benefits of becoming a better listener. But it is easier said than done.
Don’t listen to interrupt
One of the biggest problems is that most of us don’t “listen to understand”. We listen to “interject” and, often, this becomes “listen to interrupt”.
Here’s what happens in most conversations.
You listen just long enough until you can identify something you can say. If you are a salesman, it will be something that turns a feature of your product into a benefit for the client.
Once you have identified what you can say, you stop listening to the other person and just listen for your opportunity to inject your statement or comment. And the moment he pauses for a reflective second, you interrupt him.
Good listening means being really “present” for the other person and giving him your whole attention.
In short, listening to make him feel like he is the only person in the world.
Your aim is to try to empathise with the customer — see the situation from his position. Give him the reactions that show him you are interested and listening.
Rather than listening for the comment you can make, think about the question you can ask that will have him telling you more about what he is speaking about.
Sales staff, customer service professionals and consultants often unintentionally interrupt clients because they are keen to point out a benefit they have just identified.
Taking longer to get the client talking and just listening will pay off tenfold when it comes to the buying decision because there is better rapport, understanding and trust.
The three-second rule
Often, when involved in a business conversation, those within a profession will speak faster and with shorter conversational gaps than those outside the profession.
This is only natural as they are more familiar with the terminology and the environment.
So, it is easy for a salesman to misread a pause made by clients as a sign that they have finished speaking.
The salesman thinks it is his turn to speak, but the clients feel they are being interrupted.
There is a solution to fix this problem. It is so simple and immediately applicable that even the most inexperienced employee can understand and use it.
It is called the “three-second rule”.
The rule says that when you think the other person has finished speaking, you count to three before saying anything.
You will find that many times he will continue speaking — which means that you would have been interrupting him if you had spoken sooner.
Recently, a medium-sized business with about 70 sales staff started applying this rule.
From the feedback gathered two months later, it was found that approximately half the time, the client continued speaking during the three seconds.
By using this simple rule, they found out more about the client, who in turn felt more valued and understood.
Article by Kevin Ryan, managing director of Training Edge Australia and author of TILT — Selling To Today’s Buyer (second edition with additional materials by Looi Qin En). For details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com