Six Techniques to Improve Effective Listening

As a big believer in the use of the questioning model for b2b sales success, I need to share the other side of the equation. Making the environment safe for the customer or potential customer to truthfully answer your questions.

Your ability to effectively listen is a major contributor to both making it safe to answer your questions and most importantly allowing the better rapport to be built during the question and answer process. For the corporate customer, being in a safe place is one of the most important concerns they have. And, the ability to listen (you are not talking or telling) allows for a feeling of “I’m important” for the customer.

So here are six techniques designed to improve effective listening for you. Use these techniques and you will be seen as a true sales professional. 

  1. Pause
    One of the most effective tools in your tool box with the questioning model. Eliminate the rapid fire question delivery. Pause before each question showing the customer you are thinking about the question and have an interest in the particular topic or subject. Rapid fire questions become uncomfortable for the customer and they shut down on you at some point. 
  2. Clarifying Questions
    The clarifying question is your ace card during the questioning process. It shows you are actually listening to the customer and you have an interest in totally understanding the answers to your questions. Most importantly however is  the showing you are listening at a deeper level than others. Credibility is earned. 
  3. Avoid Interruptions
    A bad habit of mine is to start talking to quickly during a sales interview. My bad. I have to work on my listening skills all the time and the fastest method to listening is NO Interruptions while the customer is answering the question. IF you feel you will loss your current thought – make a note regarding the question or comment you want to make and continue to listen. 
  4. Feedback
    One of the best methods to show you are actively listening to a customer is to feedback what you have heard. Now pay attention here – most trainers will tell you to paraphrase what you have heard using your words. Wrong! You want to feedback what the customer has told you using words as closely related to what they have said as possible. Especially use any emotional laced words or phrases they have used as this shows not only that you are actually listening it will show you understand them at a personal level. I know this sounds a little deep, yet, it has been proven by research to be very effective with customers.
  5. Take Notes
    Do not trust you mind with all the details. Actively take notes during your interviews and while using the questioning model as it shows – again – you are serious about remembering important things they are telling you. One hint – allow the customer to see your note pad so they know you are taking real notes. If you hide the note pad or ipad screen from them, they will be more interesting in what they cannot see than actively answering your questions. 
  6. Use Active Body Language
    When you are face to face with a customer or potential customer body language become very important. You can also discover if you are actually in rapport using body language and a process called mirroring. Start by sitting up and leaning forward to show you are listening. After you get started and the questions and answers are flowing, you can adapt a similar body position to the customer. (A Common test to show if you are in rapport with your customer is to reposition yourself – like sitting back with a hand on your chin. If the customer “mirrors” your movement you are in a strong rapport.) Also, use body language to give you signs or signals of possible issues when asking a question and you see major body language changes. This is usually a signal that something has triggered a reaction from the customer. Stop the questioning process and directly ask if something is a concern to the customer with that last question. Usually you will get a response allowing you to stay in rapport and on track with the questioning model. 

Use these six techniques and watch your rapport with your customers improve. Gain more rapport and especially more information. B2B sales people who use these techniques tell me how much more respect they receive from their customer contacts.

Keep it simple, follow the six techniques and your success will improve significantly.

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Voss Graham

Sr Business Advisor / CEO at InnerActive Consulting Group Inc
Your Knowledgeable Partner for Business Success and Achievement. Dedicated to helping others get to their next level of success. Award winning business advisor; coach to executives and business owners; Business Growth Strategist; and experienced using assessments for hiring & selection, evaluation of teams and improving communication. Voss is available as a Speaker for your conferences or company meetings contact him at 901-757-4434 or use the LinkedIn or Facebook direct messages.

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