ACTIVE LISTENING 101

If you’ve ever worked in outbound sales – either telesales or in a face-to-face environment – you’ll know how easy it can be to slip into ‘autopilot’ when pitching new products or services to prospective customers.

Likewise when we’re continually receiving similar responses, our brains can be tempted to pick and choose the information we’re hearing and in turn offer standardised, generic responses that may not actually address the pain point or concern. There can also be a strong temptation when you’re selling in a high-pressure, high-turnover environment (like a call centre) to simply wait for your turn to speak before assailing the prospect with a barrage of information, rather than actually responding to what they have said.

Active listening is a skill that comes naturally to very few, but it can be easily mastered and is an essential tool for any aspiring sales hotshot, so it’s worth investing a little time and effort into getting it right.

Here are the basics:

Make your prospect feel ‘heard’. This can be as simple as summarising their response and repeating it back to them before you offer a response or solution. Where possible, use the same or similar language as your prospect and don’t be afraid to repeat key words or phrases. Some useful ways of framing your response (so you don’t sound like an echo) include:
‘Okay so what I’m hearing from you is…..’

‘So just to clarify…’

‘It seems like what you’re telling me is…’

Stay focused and engaged. There’s nothing more irritating than trying to explain something to someone who’s clearly distracted. Let your mind wander to your next call, your KPIs for the day or what’s for lunch and it’ll show. Plus you’ll be much more likely to miss key information that might help you close the sale.
Don’t fear the sound of silence. It’s a natural human instinct to rush to fill up silence, particularly when you’re speaking to new people. But pausing for just a heartbeat or two before you respond gives the impression that you are absorbing what the prospect has just said and offering a considered response, as opposed to just waiting for your turn to speak. It should go without saying that you should never interrupt a prospective customer – even if you have something amazing to say!
Did you catch all that?

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