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Exercise your Ears

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How often have you heard it said “Salespeople don’t listen?” What does it mean not to listen? When clients say salespeople don’t listen, they usually don’t mean that during the sales call salespeople zone out. Few salespeople do that. In fact, most salespeople do try to listen. Yet they are perceived as not listening. So for 2004 let’s start by exercising our listening skills.

Many salespeople make a few mistakes that cause clients to feel they don’t listen:

1. Salespeople don’t acknowledge what they hear before they go on to their point

2. They immediately respond to what they hear with their point, rather than ask a question to drill deeper into what the client has said – questioning is a sign of listening (and not “Would you please repeat that?”)

3. They don’t take good notes (which they can refer to tailor their solutions)

4. They don’t pick up and integrate client language when they respond

5. They don’t make eye contact – In the U.S. and many other cultures, a sign you are listening is eye contact

6. They interrupt

Acknowledging is a truly fantastic skill that not only shows you are listening, but it helps you connect. Acknowledging is not paraphrasing. Paraphrasing accomplishes very little. It is like marching in place – rehashing what has been said already; but genuine acknowledgment shows comprehension. For example:

  • Paraphrase: “So you are saying you need to expand to another region and it is challenging in this market. Is that right?” Avoid paraphrasing. Follow up with an open-ended question.
  • Acknowledgment followed by a question: “I understand that expansion is important to you. What makes it challenging in this market?” and then “What kind of expansion?”
  • Listening is hard work. It takes staying focused to grasp what the client is saying. You must be an athletic listener – alert, there, engaged in, and yes, willing to be on “Receive” and not just “Send.” The reward for all this is you will be able to tailor what you say to match the client’s needs, and you will be perceived as a really good listener.

    To improve your listening:

  • Stay focused
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Scan for words to probe and clarify with questions
  • Acknowledge what you hear
  • Ask questions
  • Take notes
  • Integrate what you hear into what you say – i.e., speak the client’s language as you tailor your response
  • Use your notes to prepare for next calls, write follow-up letters, and develop winning proposals/solutions
  • So even if you don’t keep your resolution to get in shape, exercise your ears.

    Self-coaching Activity

    To help yourself become a more effective listener, practice. In the next client call you make, focus on listening. It’s great to practice on the phone because you can really take notes more extensively than face-to-face to help you. Mentally and/or physically circle words you want to drill down with a question and put a star on words to incorporate.

    After the call, self critique/score:

  • Did you take notes through the call? (10 points)
  • Did you use acknowledgment of what you heard to connect and show you were listening before you gave your ideas? (20 points)
  • Did you ask at least two questions to clarify and drill into something the client said before responding? (15 points each question that drilled into something the client said, not questions you generate)
  • Did you incorporate the client’s words/ideas into your response? (20 points)
  • Did you change what you might otherwise have said had you not asked a question? (20 points)
  • The point is that clients feel salespeople don’t listen because they don’t see signs that they have listened. Acknowledgment shows that you are listening. Asking questions shows you are listening. Taking notes appropriately shows you are listening. The big payoff and proof of listening is that you will come back with a solution that resonates with clients – and sells!

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    Linda Richardson: President and CEO of Richardson, training consultants to corporations, banks, and investment banks globally. Richardson has 110 professionals, 15 regional offices in the United States, and presence in London, Australia, Singapore, Latin America, and Asia. Clients of Richardson include KPMG, Federal Express, General Mills, Tiffany & Co., Dell Computer, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citibank, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and Kinko’s. Visit http://www.Richardson.com.

    Linda Richardson Answers Sales Questions: Click Here For Free Answers

    Exercise your Ears
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    About Linda Richardson
    Linda Richardson: President and CEO of Richardson, training consultants to corporations, banks, and investment banks globally. Richardson has 110 professionals, 15 regional offices in the United States, and presence in London, Australia, Singapore, Latin America, and Asia. Clients of Richardson include KPMG, Federal Express, General Mills, Tiffany & Co., Dell Computer, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citibank, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and Kinko’s. Visit http://www.Richardson.com.

    Linda Richardson Answers Sales Questions: Click Here For Free Answers WebProNews Writer
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