Few skills are more underrated in sales organizations and for sales professionals than listening.
Great salespeople are skilled talkers and wellsprings of information about the products and services they offer. But talking isn’t always the right thing. Salespeople and the organizations where they work sometimes need to talk less and listen more.
A listening organization has a greater chance of being successful. However, owners and senior managers don’t always know how to develop listening as an organizational skill. It is important for everyone in the business – whatever the role – to be a good listener.
That is especially true for sales professionals, who need to be problem solvers capable of actively listening to customers to determine their needs and offer the right answers.
Customers are increasingly well-informed about the products and services offered by the businesses where they shop.
They also have a good idea of how the reputation of one business stacks up against competitors. What they don’t necessarily know is how to solve their problems. They depend on salespeople for that.
Experts say poor listening habits are more common than most people realize; much more so than poor speaking and writing skills. However, this can go unnoticed because poor listening is not as obvious.
Listening improves the quality of a relationship with the customer. In listening organizations, sales professionals pay as much attention to body language and to what is implied as to what is being said.
They are comfortable with brief pauses and moments of silence because they know customers don’t always easily articulate their needs. They listen for opportunities to offer solutions and to gain a commitment from customers.
They ask follow-up questions to fill information gaps and they repeat things back to clarify customer needs, which reduces the potential for a miscommunication.
Listening – like speaking and writing – is a learned skill that improves over time with practice. It’s up to the owner or senior manager to make sure people across the organization – especially the sales professionals – are skilled listeners.
Doing so opens new opportunities for stronger relationships with customers.
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