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A quick guide to improve your active listening skills.

June 29, 2020
by
Kyle Vamvouris
Image of a dog in black and white.
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." -Stephen R. Covey

Listening is as much as a learned skill, as it is a natural curiosity. If you want to be successful in sales you must understand the needs of your prospects. Half the battle is being able to communicate effectively. However, the skilled salesperson knows that winning the battle requires acute listening skills.

Even the most talented salespeople get caught in a “call dream.” This is when their thoughts are about what to say next, how they will get commitment on a next step. When a salesperson is thinking too much about what to say they tend to miss important information about the prospects challenges.

Listen With the Intent to Understand

Let me tell you a brief story. About 2 years ago I was at a restaurant ordering a burrito. I asked for avocado and no salsa (I don't like my burritos soggy. I also imagine most of the comments on this post will be about burritos but I digress). The lady behind the counter was alone, she was very understaffed and had a long line of customers. She took my order while making the person’s burrito who was in front of me. She asked the next customer in line what they wanted before even starting on my food. When I grabbed my burrito and took a look what do you think I saw?

She messed up my order... shocker. To be honest, I can’t blame her because it was a lot for one person to manage. She did the best she could but at the end of the day, she didn't listen well. Have you ever been in a similar situation? Maybe the prospect is talking and you are worried about making sure you take the right notes. Perhaps you are focused on constructing the perfect response in your head. Maybe your smiling because you “got this one for sure!” Have you ever had a prospect that you thought would close refuse to sign? We all have — maybe we got excited too soon.

Never Assume

"Curiosity kills cats, not salespeople"

When discussing details, problems, and/or issues of a prospect, you will find yourself in a position where you will know what they are going to say before they say it. You have had 100’s of these conversations before, so why not skip ahead? This instinct will stop your momentum dead in its tracks.

Don't let what seems to be routine stifle your natural curiosity. Allow your curiosity to obtain more information from the prospect. Curiosity can help you to discover smaller details that can paint a bigger picture for you and your prospect’s problems. Letting the prospect paint this picture is incredibly important because it forces them to see the image clearly, something they might not have done before.

Curiosity might have a bad reputation because of the impact it had on the cat population. However, it can prove to be incredibly useful for salespeople. Stay quiet, Allow your prospect the time to discuss their issues thoroughly, and offer solutions only once you have a better idea of what they’re dealing with. It’s essential for you to NOT try to search for something that fits your agenda while listening to your prospect. Focus on their needs first and foremost, and then offer support.

What are you Listening For?

"Who needs an app when there's an acronym for that!"

Now that we’ve established a basis on how we should listen to our prospect, we need to start pointing out for a specific language, rhetoric, and the tone of voice the prospect might share in our conversation. By listening to specific emotional cues, we can further develop a better understanding of how to solve our prospect’s problems.

An easy way to identify clues on what to hone in on during your conversations is what I call D.I.C.E. If you didn't know I love fancy acronyms!

One of the techniques you can use is the D.I.C.E. Method. This method helps you identify clues on what to hone in on during your conversation. This method will also help assist you while you take notes, which we discuss more in detail below.

Drama

Did the prospect use dramatic language?

“Running ROI analyses is becoming a burden for me…”


Is the prospect describing a dramatic situation?

“The auditors came in and I was very nervous…”

Are they over exaggerating or being hyperbolic?

“Our sales are in the toilet, I feel like every year we are losing money while our competitors are doing so well!”

Irritation

The prospect says they’re frustrated by something.

“I'm frustrated by all the manual work that goes into on-boarding a new hire.”

The prospect is describing is an obvious problem or frustration.

“When a new hire starts I need them to sign a document, I then must scan it, I have to manually add them to every system that we use internally, and add them to payroll. Its a long process...”


Confusion

The prospect admits they are having some confusion regarding a work arrangement, task, or duty.

“I am constantly helping my team set up our marketing campaigns because they have a hard time using our automation system”

The prospect explains a situation in which they’re confused themselves.

“I don’t understand how to make changes to the marketing campaigns I have already set up, I know I can but the UI is so confusing.”

The prospect explains a situation that causes you to be confused.

“We download the CSV, edit it, upload it, and finally run it through activation. After all that we have to cross reference with our CRM and finally execute.”

Excitement

Prospect explains or acts very excited about something.

“I am very excited about our growth, we will be adding 12 new people this year…”

Prospect tells you something that excites you.

“We realized we were paying way too much for our marketing automation software and we plan on making a change…”

As always, have a wonderful day filled with success and self-improvement!    

Cold calls are hard, click here to read an article about what to do when a call gets difficult.

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