Many salespeople have difficulty listening because while their potential customers are talking, they are already running ahead in their minds, coming up with persuasive arguments to sell their products. However, while it is good to be proactive and to think well on your feet, you cannot be an effective listener if you are constantly focused on your own thoughts and not on your customer's words.
While it is possible to improve your listening skills over time, it takes intense dedication. In order to become a better listener, you must devote yourself to growth in this area on an ongoing basis. Listening skills are not something that will improve after simply reading a book or attending a seminar. They improve slowly and systematically over time, and you must be dedicated to improving your listening skills in your personal life as well as your professional life to see improvement.
Some simple tips for beginning work on your listening skills are as follows:
1. Take notes. While your potential customer is speaking, try jotting down important points that he or she mentions. This will help you remember what was said and will also serve as a reference point when it is your turn to speak again. In addition, you might try verbally summarizing or acknowledging his or her main points during the conversation. You can start these verbal summaries with the words "So what you're saying is..." or "So you feel that...."
2. Try to understand. If you really try to understand where a person is coming from and the points he or she is making while you are listening, you will be more likely to remember what was said during the conversation. When your potential customer brings something up, instead of mentally arguing the point in your head or telling yourself why he or she is wrong, try to simply listen and understand what is being said and the feelings and opinions involved.
3. Listen to body language. In addition to listening to the words your potential customer is speaking, you should make a concentrated effort to listen to his or her body language as well. Watch for nonverbal cues expressing how he or she may be feeling. This will help you get a better overall perception of what the person is saying and/or feeling, and it will help you better remember and understand what is going on.
"Today's successful salesperson is ultimately an effective problem solver. Whether it is an existing or potential customer, the most successful salespeople continuously strive to hone their listening skills to accurately define their customers' business intentions," Smock said. "If properly trained, and with constant practice, a salesperson will quickly realize that how they talk or present their product or service is relatively unimportant when compared to how and what they listen to when guided by well-honed listening skills."