Everyone wants to be heard. Yet the person you’re speaking to isn’t always listening. Customers seek someone to understand their goals, deliver a solution, and facilitate a purchase experience. To do this well, though, requires being skilled in active listening. Do your salespeople understand that listening is a skillset?
Whether it be on the phone or in-person, every good salesperson must pay undivided attention to the shopper. Whereas passive listening are those situations where communication is essentially one-way, and the receiver isn’t providing any feedback or showing they’re listening, active listening proves to the person speaking that you’re right there with them. You understand what they’re saying. (Sure, at DealerKnows, we also train “reflective listening”, but for today’s discussion, I want to share the steps your team must embrace when active listening.
These are the R.U.L.E.S. of active listening:
R: Respect the customer
U: Understand their goal
L: Listen with both ears and eyes
E: Eliminate distractions
S: Summarize their needs and next steps
Let’s dive into each one individually.
Respect the customer
In sales, from the start, we need to recognize that the shopper is the one that needs to be served. It is not our needs that are at the forefront here, but theirs. Paying undivided attention, showing empathy, and refusing to judge them are all integral to giving them respect. Without them, our job is non-existent. We need to be polite and be interested; grateful they chose to shop with us.
Understand their goal
This is where salespeople must listen to both verbal cues, as well as subtext. Is it product availability information they need? Is the price a concern? Are they simply looking to see who can be trusted? Those elements can be verbal or subtextual clues they share, but it is the salesperson’s responsibility to ask the right questions as to how best be of service to them. By asking pertinent (non-redundant) questions, you’re proving that you’re active listening. This helps you both generate rapport, identify needs/concerns, and control the flow of conversation. What does the customer need to move forward? That is their goal.
Listen with both ears and eyes
Obviously, we must listen with our ears, but are we comprehending, cataloguing, and taking notes (if necessary)? Just because salespeople hear a customer, doesn’t mean they’re listening. It is important to listen to the customer, which means having full comprehension of what they are saying. A shopper’s words aren’t noise, they’re clues.
Then there is listening with the eyes. I can’t express the importance of eye contact when a shopper is in front of us. Face-to-face communication, including body language, plays a major role in a salesperson’s trustworthiness. Don’t stare, but make sure your attention isn’t constantly broken by directing your gaze to anything other than your conversation with them. But Joe, how do I listen with my eyes if I’m on the phone with them? Easy – look at the notes you take, rather than spending time on a device that may distract you. Which leads me to…
As we grade how sales calls are handled as part of our BDC Training, we hear countless instances of the salesperson dedicating their attention to their computer, rather than the caller. This causes hold time, dead air, long pauses, alerts that “my computer is going so slow”, all of which proves that the sales agent’s attention is divided. Short of a legal pad with which to take notes, your full attention must be given to the person speaking. Whether on the phone or face-to-face, don’t look at your phone. Don’t jump on a computer. Callers can hear you clicking away on your computer. Don’t interact with others in your organization just passing by. Make sure the shopper knows they’re your sole priority.
Summarize their needs and next steps
Any good conversation involves two-way communication. How to best show a shopper that you are active listening is by repeating back to them a summary of what they said, reconfirming what their expectations/desires are, and then alerting them as to what the next steps you (and they) will be taking to achieve their goal. Not only does this action clear up any potential confusions, but it proves that you are now in lockstep with them on their purchase. Moreover, you are then dictating the remainder of the purchase process. This allows you to take control.
As a society, we speak to each other every day. The moment we feel we are being ignored (or, worse, marginalized or dismissed), we lose value in the conversation. We lose interest in the person to which we are speaking. If it is in the environment of retail sales, there is nothing more valuable that building rapport, nay, relationships with our clients. Sales professionals throw out the standard phrase of “I want to earn your business”, but if you want to prove you do, it starts with active listening.
Want to hear more? Listen to Joe sing about loving customers by improving your CRM process.