In earlier posts, we learned of the three levels of listening. Now we’ll focus on how to implement those listening skills in sales conversations. The importance of excellent listening skills in selling cannot be overemphasized.
Level One Listening: Repeat the key or emotional words that the other person just said. If we hear our own words coming back to us, we are likely to feel that our conversational partner has heard what we had to say. So if your prospect says, “This is just too expensive!” you’d respond, “Ah, too expensive.”
This does not mean that it’s your opinion that what you’re offering is too expensive. It just means that you heard your prospect.
Level Two Listening: Paraphrase what the other person just said. Again, keep your opinion out; just give the prospect back what he or she just said to you by conveying the same meaning with different words. For example, the prospect says, “We’re not prepared to change vendors!” you’d respond, “Ah, you don’t want to make a switch.”
Level Three Listening: Paraphrase what the other person just said and convey the emotion. Again, keep your opinion out. Just give the prospect back what he or she just said to you, but this time, put the emotional loading on it just as he did. For example, the prospect says, “Look! I just don’t have the budget for anything like this!” and you respond with comparable energy, “Okay, there’s just no money available at all!”
Again, these listening tools are designed to get your prospect to feel heard and understood. Most people are surprised that you’re not arguing with them and refreshed that you actually can hear what they have to say.
And, really, think about it: Why are they talking with you? If there’s really no money, or no thought of change, they could simply avoid having a conversation with you altogether!
Many people, even those who say, “Don’t need it, don’t want it, no budget,” upon feeling heard, will go on talking! And when they do, quite often they’ll talk about their Pain at such length that they realize they have to make a change. In other words, they realize that the Pain of continuing in their present circumstances is greater than the Pain of spending money on what you offer!
So, you’re listening to understand the prospect’s situation and Pain, rather than to communicate what you have to offer, or to make a case for buying from you. Selling is not about your opinion—unless you’re asked for it, keep your opinion out of the conversation and stop advocating! It’s the stereotype of what people expect from salespeople—that you’ll try to sell me something whether or not I need it. And that’s often why prospects move away from us. Understand them, and they often move in our direction.