“Never underestimate the value of active listening” – Anita Nielsen in today’s Tip 530
Are you an active listener?
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Scott Ingram: You’re listening to the Daily Sales Tips Podcast and I’m your host, Scott Ingram. Today’s tip comes from Anita Nielsen. Anita is the President of LDK Advisory Services, a sales performance coach and author of the book: Beat the Bots – How Your Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career” She’s also an advisor for the National Association of Women Sales Professionals and a member of Women Sales Pros. Here she is:
Anita Nielsen: Hey everyone! Anita Nielsen here with another sales tip to share with you. Today I want to chat with you about active listening. So I’ve worked with a lot of sales professionals over the past couple of decades, and there are some inarguable truths that I’ve learned along the way. One of these truths is about something that feels sales professionals with fear and dread, even if just subconsciously in some cases.
So sales professionals and I included will do anything in their power to not look like a fool in a customer interaction. I mean, if a sales professional feels even the slightest lack of confidence and their knowledge of a product or offering they’ll typically do anything they can’t avoid selling that product. Instead, they’ll go back to selling offerings they have a deeper understanding of.
You’re likely wondering, “What does this have to do with active listening, Anita?” Well, I’m so glad you asked.
When a sales professional is doing their discovery conversation with a client. They may ask some great high-impact questions. However, when the customer begins to answer, most sales professionals will typically only hear the first few words that the customer says. This is because like most people are listening with the aim to respond and not with the intent to truly understand. I’m going to say that again, cause it’s really important. They’re listening with the aim to respond and not with the intent to truly understand.
Sales professionals who we know can’t tolerate the idea of seeming foolish or appearing to lack knowledge can often fall into the trap of focusing on what they need to say next in response to a customer rather than listening. So come on, fess up, you know you’ve been guilty of hearing a little bit from the customer and then trying to figure out in your head what you’re going to say next so that they realize how credible you are and that you’re adding value to the conversation.
Well, this is a mistake for a couple of reasons. First people, of course, enjoy talking about themselves, but you know what they love even more? They love the feeling of being truly heard and understood you do yourself a great disservice If you rob them of that feeling. That feeling can help accelerate your sales motion.
Second, by not listening, you’re missing out on valuable information that can help you differentiate down the road. The purpose of asking high impact questions is to get people to really open up and give them the opportunity to allow emotions to seep into the conversation. As a sales professional, you need that emotional intelligence and the insight because people buy based on emotion and then they rationalize their decision.
So my general tip for you today is to get really good at active listening. Now there’s a couple of easy things that you can start to do to help you stay focused on your customer in that moment and help them realize that you value them enough to truly listen and to understand their plight.
So first thing you can do at natural pauses within that conversation, take a second to paraphrase what you’ve just heard and just a few words. And then I ask, did I get that right? This reinforces to the customer that you care enough about what they have to say that you bothered to ask if you understood them correctly, that can be really powerful.
Second something I like to call it a three-peat. Three-peat means that a couple of times in the conversation, when you feel like there’s more to an answer that you haven’t yet like gotten to, or that they haven’t shared with you, you’re going to take the last two to three keywords that the customer says when their answer and restate it in the form of a question.
So for example, if I ask a client, “Can you explain to me how you determine project priority?” So the client says, “Sure, we prioritize projects based on input from our main business stakeholder.” So here’s where you’re going to do the three-peat and you’re going to ask, “Key business stakeholders?” Again, that’s the last three important words at the customer said and they’re repeated back in the form of a question.
Now, the customer will likely give you more information to clarify that original statement they made. You get to benefit from the additional detail that you can later, again, spin into powerful messaging.
In this example, the customer may say at this point, “Oh yes, sorry. Our main business stakeholders are the six business unit leaders that we’ve put on IT Strategy Committee. We partner with them to define what projects they need us to do. And then we determined the project priority together.” That’s a heck of a lot more than you got the first time around. And it even gives you an opportunity to ask some good followup questions, such as well, which business units are represented and so on.
Number three, lastly. At the end of the conversation always summarized and major points you heard from the customer by saying, “Let me summarize what I learned from you today.” It’s important to say it that way to say, let me summarize what I learned from you today. It helps them to realize that you’re actually learning from them as opposed to, you know, trying to get information from them that you can then use to sell them later. So after you do that little summary, you’re going to ask, “What did I miss?”
Now, Don’t let the simplicity of this technique fool you. It’s super powerful because it gives the customer one more chance to, it gives you additional information that they may have forgotten along the way. And it also lets them clarify as they see fit based on what you’ve just shared with them.
Now, the bonus that kind of sneaky bonus with asking this question and saying, what did I miss? Is that it’s a small statement that can imply big humility. It sends a signal subconsciously, if nothing else, that you are sincere and recognize that you could missed something. Not only that, but it indicates to them that they’re so important to you, that you needed to make absolutely sure that you did not miss a thing.
So there you go, never underestimate the value of active listening. You use these three simple techniques over the next few days in your client meetings and notice how your conversations just feel more powerful and how you improve rapport and relationship because you’ve made them feel heard and understood. I think you’ll quickly find that active listening is a sales superpower. That’s all for me for now until next time, happy selling.
Scott Ingram: For more about Anita, a link to her book “Beat the Bots” where you can learn more about high impact questions, active listening and other ways to sell bigger, better and more. We’ve also included links to the National Association of Women Sales Professionals and Women Sales Pros. For all of that, just click over to DailySales.Tips/530
Once you’ve explored all of that and picked up your copy of “Beat the Bots,” be sure to come back tomorrow for another great sales tip. Thanks for listening!