Good salespeople often have the gift of gab. It’s important for them to be able to engage with customers and speak eloquently about what their selling. But to be truly great, knowing when not to talk is just as important. In this post we’ll go over some ways to help you become a better listener, and how doing so will improve your closing rate with clients.
Slow the Conversation Down
A lot of salespeople seem to take the rapidfire approach to speaking with prospects. They’re excited about what they’re selling, and they have a lot of information they want to get out. This technique is good for infomercials, less so for speaking face to face with another person.
Your job as a salesperson is to reassure your client that what you are selling is going to help them fulfill their specific need. Talking too quickly or too much makes the conversation one sided, and shows the client that you don’t care about what they want or have to say. Silence can be golden, especially in the beginning of a conversation. Slow things down, and pause often enough to give the person you're speaking to an opportunity to reply.
Likewise, never interrupt a client when they’re speaking. This shows poor manners in any conversation, let alone one where you are trying to gain someone’s business. An interruption implies that you disagree with what the other person is saying, or that what you have to say is more important. Either way, it’s a good way to create hostility, and put the person you’re speaking with on the defensive.
Putting your client on the defensive is the last thing you want as a salesperson. It turns what should be a cooperative process — one where you help the client fulfill their needs and in exchange they give you money — into a competitive one. It can make even the most eager buyer feel as if they would be losing an argument if they were to buy from you.
There are really only two scenarios when you should interrupt someone before they finish speaking. The first is if you need clarification about what they are saying. The second is if you are finishing the other person’s sentence. This is referred to as overlapping speech, and while it can come off as annoying or rude if done too frequently, the sparse use of it can actually help to build rapport. It shows that you understand and agree with what the other person is saying.
Clarify and Paraphrase
A big part of listening is letting people know you are listening. After someone finishes speaking, take a moment to format your words into your own thoughts, and recap the things they just finished saying. Doing so let’s the person you're speaking with know that you were listening, and that they are understood. It can be especially important in phone conversations, where it’s easier to miss part of someone’s message.
Listen to Emotions
The emotional tone of a conversation can be just as important as the words being said. Make an effort to empathize with your conversation partner. Try to feel out their tone of voice, and pay attention to body language so that you can understand how they are feeling about how the conversation is going. This can be done over the phone just as in person. Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have found that it’s actually possible to “hear” a smile. This is a good reason to put one on while you’re on the phone, too.
Impress your clients by referencing things they’ve said earlier in the conversation or in prior conversations. Not only will it make you seem smart, it will show them that the things they said were important enough for you to remember them. Take notes if you need to. This is easier to do on the phone, but if you’re speaking face to face you can jot down some of the things that were said afterwards.
Conversation is kind of like music. You want to find a harmonious balance between talking and listening. After speaking with a prospective client, refer back to the ideas here to see how you did. Make a conscious effort to improve your listening skills when speaking with clients, and you’re sure to see your closing rates improve.