Customer Experience News & Trends

Get better at listening to customers: 10 ways

The single biggest complaint of customers is that salespeople talk too much and don’t listen enough. Poor salespeople dominate the talking, while successful salespeople dominate the listening. 

It’s possible for you to talk too much, but it’s rarely possible to listen too much. When salespeople are excellent listeners, prospects and customers feel comfortable and secure with them. They buy more readily and more often.

Why salespeople stop listening

Two things stop salespeople from listening:

  • They have a lot to say because they’ve developed so much expertise. They don’t understand that the fastest way to irritate a prospect is by talking too much and listening too little.
  • They’ve listened to the customer’s side so often, they can predict what the customer will say. Result: They learn less about customers’ changing needs than an effective listener would uncover.

Benefits of good listening

There are several benefits to listening that can never be gained by talking:

  • Listening builds trust. The best salespeople are good listeners who seem concerned with customer needs and help them purchase products or services in a cost-effective way.
  • Listening lowers resistance. It reduces tension and defensiveness on the part of customers who realize they aren’t going to be pushed into making a purchase through force of words.
  • Listening builds self-esteem for customers. It’s flattering for a customer to know that a salesperson is listening intently to what’s being said. It’s also good business for the salesperson.

Listening is not hearing

Listening is different from hearing. Hearing is passive. It’s what people do when a bore starts talking. Listening is an active activity in which salespeople pay genuine attention to what customers or prospects say.

It’s a skill that needs constant development. When salespeople listen more, what they hear sounds less repetitious and more meaningful.

Here are 10 approaches that help promote active listening:

  1. Show that you’re tracking with customers. Give them short verbal feedback phrases like, “I see” or “Go on.” Nod your head. Use body language to show the customer you’re interested in what’s being said.
  2. Don’t interrupt. Ideally, the only time you should break up the customer’s conversation stream is if you need clarification on what’s being said.
  3. Avoid distractions. Focus your attention on the prospect or customer. Communication is best in a calm, relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Repeat in your own words one or more points the customer makes. Paraphrasing lets the customer know what you’re listening. It shows the prospect that you have a clear understanding of what’s being said.
  5. Restate. This is repeating verbatim all or part of what a customer has said while placing emphasis on one part of it. The main purpose of restating is to get prospects to give more information. Additional information can be the difference in making a sale or not.
  6. Ask pertinent questions. Put what you think the customer said in your own words. If you understand correctly, the customer will agree. If not, he or she will have a chance to clarify.
  7. Summarize. Active listening involves mentally summarizing points that have been made. Try to state these brief summaries at key moments in your presentations. Summarizing also lets you take charge of the direction of the conversation.
  8. Try to avoid arguing. A good listener is there to find out what the customer thinks and where she or he is coming from. If the customer wants to hear your opinion, he or she will ask. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to remain silent, especially if a customer is venting.
  9. Don’t be afraid of silence. It gives you time to think about what the other person is saying. Silence is a natural part of listening and not a space to be filled as quickly as possible with meaningless conversation. It’s a good idea to use this test: Will what you have to say improve on the silence?
  10. Remember the golden rule of listening: It’s possible to say too much. It’s rarely possible to listen too much.

Adapted from How to Listen and Double Your Influence With Others, by Brian Tracy, an internationally recognized author, speaker and trainer in the area of sales skill development.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest customer experience news and insights delivered to your inbox.