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IN SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Stephen Covey wrote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This principle alone has the power to solve an industry-wide sales challenge: underdeveloped listening skills. In today’s Information Age, prospective customers often come to the table armed with enough facts to make their own logical decisions. However, most of us make our decisions emotionally first, often based on how much we trust the salesperson. Because of this fact, salespeople have to be more than information providers. Instead, they have to focus on building relationships — but before you can build the foundation for any good relationship, you have to listen. For sales teams trained under the old sales model, this transition can be challenging. Instead of just outlining features and benefits, they have to dedicate most of their time to asking high-impact, open-ended questions, and then listening carefully. After all, we do have two ears and just one mouth for a reason. Better listening skills don’t just help sales teams build stronger relationships and close more sales; listening carefully also helps your sales team become more efficient with their prospecting. By listening more — and talking less — they can quickly distinguish between good prospects and dead ends, avoiding time-killers and moving on to stronger possibilities. If you want to sharpen your listening skills, start by avoiding these common pitfalls: Resist the temptation to focus so much on what you’re going to say next that you’re not hearing what the prospect is telling you. Avoid making assumptions, answering questions that haven’t been asked, or solving problems that haven’t been articulated. Derailing the conversation is a clear sign that you aren’t listening to your prospect. If you switch subjects too quickly, your prospect will know you’re not really listening. Placating prospects by agreeing with almost everything they say often comes across as self-serving, and working too hard to prove you have the solution to all the problems your prospects mention will come across as insincere. Remember that emotions drive purchases more than intellect, so don’t underestimate the importance of building rapport by asking thoughtful questions that encourage your prospects to articulate their needs. You won’t close sales by telling prospects what their problems are. Ask leading questions that allow prospects to realize their needs in their own way. Next, ask meaningful follow-up questions. For example, when you hear your prospect identify a source of pain, you could say, “Tell me how much this problem is costing you.” You will also want to restate what you’ve heard occasionally, to show you’re paying attention. Finally, recognize that a brief pause is a powerful tool for bringing out information a prospect may have never intended to share. Developing better listening skills takes discipline, but it can pay out big dividends.

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RedRover Sales & Marketing

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