Most salespeople are not as good at communicating as they think they are. And so, most of what they are trying to communicate usually ends up muddled and misunderstood.
Luckily, with a little training, the power to clarify their messages is easily learned. If you invest the time, soon your salespeople will be communicating clearly and effectively.
See, the first step to becoming a good communicator starts with being a good listener. Without the ability to listen, your salespeople won’t be able to communicate with customers in a way that makes them feel comfortable.
And when customers don’t feel comfortable, they won’t buy.
Therefore, we need to train salespeople on how to make people feel more comfortable by training them to be better listeners.
Here’s how you do it.
First, you need your salespeople to understand the difference between the two forms of listening—passive listening and active listening.
Passive listening is barely more than hearing. While passive listening allows the other person to speak, it is not an effective mode of conversation, since the listener is unlikely to remember anything the speaker has said.
Most salespeople use passive listening. There are a lot of reasons why this is the default form of listening (and not just for salespeople). One is that most people are not properly trained in active listening. Another is that they’re too distracted to listen actively. They might be focusing on something else, waiting for their chance to respond or thinking of what they want to say next.
But this isn’t an effective way to communicate with customers.
With active listening, the speaker—your customer—will feel like the salesperson cares about what they have to say, thus making them feel more comfortable.
Additionally, by making them feel heard, they will care more about the salesperson’s opinions, advice and recommendations.
You see, human beings naturally feel a sense of gratitude and debt to those who give them something of value, and the gift of being heard is valuable. That means they feel indebted to listen to advice from the salesperson later in the process.
When training your salespeople on active listening, it’s important to note that there are two phases required—data collection and interpretation—and they must be able to switch between these phases fluidly.
During the data collection phase, they should be listening to what the customer has to say and absorbing the information. In the interpretation phase, they should be demonstrating to the customers that they’ve heard what they said and understand.
The following 6 strategies are tools to help your salespeople move between the two phases seamlessly.
1: Simple Phrase Responses
Simple phrase responses encourage the customer to elaborate on what they’ve already said, giving the salesperson more information to work with and a better understanding of where the customer is coming from.
Phrases They Can Use:
Is there more?
Nodding and smiling.
Mirroring is where your salesperson repeats what the customer said using the exact same words. Mirroring is used in two distinct ways. The first way to use mirroring is to confirm what the customer said. We are naturally drawn to what is familiar, so hearing our words repeated back to us gives us a sense of confirmation.
Mirroring can also be used as a tool to get the speaker to elaborate. When the salesperson repeats the last 1-3 words the customers said in the form of a question (with the tone of your voice going up at the end), it will lead the customer to elaborate on what they’ve already said, revealing additional and valuable information.
3: Strategic Silence
People are naturally uncomfortable with silence. If you leave enough space, most people will inevitably fill it in. This is important for your salespeople to remember when they’re in the data-collecting part of the conversation. The problem is that most salespeople, and indeed most people in general, will trample over the silence before it’s had time to work its magic. Make sure your salespeople give the customer room to talk, especially when using mirrors.
It should feel awkward. That’s how you know it’s working
4: Clarifying Questions
It’s all right if your salespeople don’t understand exactly what the customer is trying to communicate. The key then, is to get them to give up more information, so everyone can get on the same page. Having the salesperson ask clarifying questions is one technique that will help with this.
Here are some examples:
I’m not sure I understand. Can you tell me more about that?
Do you mean…?
That’s interesting. Tell me more?
5: Summary, Paraphrase & Gratitude
Once enough information has been collected, your salesperson can move to the interpretation step of listening. Summary, paraphrase and gratitude are powerful tools to demonstrate that they’ve heard and understood what the customer has said. This is more than just mirroring the exact words that the customer said. To use this strategy, they need to be able to put what they’ve expressed into their own words.
Phrases They Can Use:
Thank you for sharing…
I appreciate you sharing that with me…
Let’s see if I’m clear about this…
Let me make sure I understand…
Labeling helps your salespeople demonstrate that they’ve not only heard what the prospect said, but also that they understand where they are coming from. Labeling requires that the salesperson interpret what the customer is saying and then use empathy to decode what they might be experiencing or feeling.
Labeling is also a great tool for neutralizing negative emotions. For instance, acknowledging the fears associated with making a large purchase, like a car, makes the fear seem less overwhelming. And naming the anger or frustration a customer may be feeling with a past car buying experience or their current vehicle will help them feel heard and understood.
Phrases They Can Use:
It sounds like…
Would it be fair to say x, y and z?
It’s worth the time and investment it takes to train your salespeople on active listening because it will help you sell more cars. When you train your salespeople to use these methods, each interaction they have with your customers will help them build rapport. Ultimately the rapport they build throughout the buying process will make it easier for them to get a commitment from the customer and close the sale.
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