Sunday, December 19, 2010

Just Listen Part Two

                         So, how do we do it better?

     Here are two specific techniques to help you improve your listening effectiveness:

1. Listen constructively 
     This is very appropriate for our type of work because we are sales consultants. It is more important that we listen “constructively.” Think of “constructively – construction – building.” We need to listen for things upon which to build. Listen for opportunities, problems, opinions, etc. on which we can build our solutions. 

     One way to do this is to plant a few questions into our mind before every sales engagement. These are questions for which we want to gain the answer. You could, for example, say to yourself before a sales engagement: “What is the one thing that is this customer’s most pressing challenge today?” And, you could ask yourself, “On what basis will this customer make the decision to buy or not?” 

     By planting those questions into your mind, you sharpen your sensitivity to what the customer says, enabling you to listen more constructively to the customer’s conversation. 

2. Discipline yourself to build the habit of responding to your customer’s comments
      Here’s how we think the sales interview should go:

·         We ask a question

·         The customer answers

·         We ask another question
     When you exercise the habit of responding, you change the format. Now, it goes like this: 

·         We ask a question

·         The customer answers

·         We respond to the answer

·         We now ask another question

     Notice that we have intervened in the process with something we call a “response.” A response is a verbal or non-verbal signal that we send to the customer that we are listening, and accepting what the customer says. It flatters the customer, makes him/her feel good about answering, and encourages him/her to answer in more depth and detail. 

Here are two powerful responses: 

A. Select one or two words out of the customer’s conversation, and repeat them back to the customer, nodding your head. 

     Here’s an example. You ask the question, “Which of these challenges are most pressing for you?”
     The customer responds by talking for a few moments about his challenges. When he pauses, you say, “back orders” and nod your head. “Back orders” was one of the issues he talked about. You just repeated it, and nodded your head. 

     That’s a powerful response because it shows the customer that you have listened to the point that you have captured and repeated one of his main thoughts. That feels good to the customer and conditions him to answer the next question with even more depth and detail. Just as importantly, since you were focused on finding a key word or two to repeat, you had to listen to the customer’s conversation! This technique forced you to listen more effectively, and made the customer feel good in the process. This part of a science called Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) which we discussed in another newsletter. 

B. Summarize and rephrase what the customer has said, and repeat it back to him

     This is similar to the one or two word techniques discussed above, more intense. When the customer has finished answering your question, you say something like this: “Let me see if I understand you correctly. In other words, what you are saying is…………………………” Paraphrase and give him back your understanding of what he just said. 

     Like the prior technique, this is a powerful tool because it forces you to listen, it engages the customer, and it seeks agreement. Using this a few times in the sales interview will make the customer feel good about you, ensure that you understand him, and create an atmosphere of agreement. 

    Ultimately, your ability to listen more effectively evolves out of your discipline to apply some of these techniques regularly and methodically. If you are going to listen more effectively, you must first make the commitment to expend the effort to do so. 


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