How to Listen Actively on the Phone in Sales?

Active Listening in Sales

Selling a product is a combined effort of a good product, closing techniques, presentation tools, prospects and most importantly your listening skills. Successful selling is dependent on active listening in sales calls.

If you also believe, like most other people, that listening is just hearing words coming out of the client’s mouth; you are mistaken big time!

Jump Directly to

1 . What happens if you don’t listen?

2. How to know if you are a poor listener?

3. Active listening is a four step process:

4. How effective are calls in the present scenario?

5. Ways to master active listening :  

Listening over a phone call is a work of concentration, patience and ability to comprehend what the customer is saying. Listening is both, a complex process and a learned skill; it requires a conscious intellectual and emotional effort.

High growth companies that make a minimum of 40% growth for consecutive 3 years still believe that sales over call, making cold calls are important for their business.

What happens if you don’t listen?

You listen well to improve your relations with clients or talking outside sales; with friends and family. Inefficient listening can deteriorate these relations and the trust that you are building in your client. You are very likely to lose a selling opportunity if you don’t listen well.

Miscommunication is a reason for more than 60% of problems people face while converting calls or dealing with people. There can be mistakes, misunderstanding if you don’t listen properly.

John Doerr, a venture capitalist writes that sales executives who do not listen well, miss the chance to build a rapport, uncover buyer needs, and let the prospect know you understand their world.

How to know if you are a poor listener?

If one or many of these questions are positive for you, then you are limiting your ability to listen fully.

1. Do you do fidget or do other things while your client is talking? Are you worried about the next call? About the money that you will make if you make the sale or thinking about personal concerns?

2. Is it difficult for you to stay quiet? Do you jump to answers without listening to concerns fully?

3. Are you faking listening? Just so that the client finishes and you flood him with your comments?

4.  Is selective listening your thing? Do you hear things only that you want to?

5. Does background noise or your surroundings distract you so much that you are not able to listen?

6. Do you apply filters when you listen? If you do so, your understanding is based on your past experiences or beliefs which might be biased.

Knowingly or unknowingly, practicing any of these habits might hamper your sales efforts or your income.

Active listening in sales is a critical aspect, especially when on a phone when the client is not present physically.

Active listening is listening to a speaker fully engaged, providing feedback and indicating that both of you hear and understand what the speaker is saying.

Active listening is a four step process:

1.  Listen to the client/prospect carefully.

2.  Repeat or feed back of your understanding of his words/feelings.

3.  Make sure that you have heard the prospect correctly.

4.  Ask a follow up question to further clarify your understanding of their situation.

1.  Listen to the client: 

Often sales representatives are too busy talking and hence do not listen. Most of them look for  specific set of words that gives them a hint whether the prospect needs their product. When they do this, prospects can easily sense that the sales person is trying to sell something and not concerned about the real problem. This strategy leads to nowhere actually.

Make it a point to listen differently. forget about the script and listen to the words and feelings that your client is trying to convey. When you truly begin to understand the plight of the prospect and put yourself in buyer’s shoes, you can make a huge difference in sales, encourage prospects to open up more and earn more chances of closing the call.

So when on a call, in a meeting, keep the distractions away, forget the script fed to you and don’t think about the next step. Just pay attention to what the prospect is saying.

2. Feed back what you just heard back to the prospect

After you have heard completely what the prospect has to say, keep in mind the challenges that he has spoken about or their requirements. Repeat the same to them in your understanding. This is to know that you have understood the problem in the best possible way. In a phone call, this becomes even more important as you are not seeing each other and facial expressions or body language cannot convey that the understanding is going in the right direction. This practice can be done in the following ways:

a. Repeat word to word: let the prospect hear exactly what he said when you repeat their statements word to word. Do this in a subtle way so that the prospect does not doubt your understanding.

b. Say it in your own words: this is a better approach than the last one. Instead of repeating, say the sentences in your own words. By doing so you can concise and give the gist of the conversation and express your understanding at the same time. When you do so, the prospect will also know that you have listened carefully. A caution here is to avoid oversimplifying things or forgetting important details. This might shake their confidence in you.

Giving a feedback of what you just heard will leave an impression on your prospect because most of the people are not good listeners. Your ability to do so will surely remain in his mind.

Convincing your prospect that what they said is understood and noted is the motto of this step.

3. Confirm that you’ve heard them correctly

In the previous step, you made your efforts to make sure that you heard what the prospect had to say. Now, the critical step is to confirm whether you heard the right thing. You can do this by simply asking, “Did I communicate that effectively?” or Do you believe I understand what you have shared with me?” if the prospect says “no”, you have a chance to clarify your understanding by asking him to clarify what you have missed.

Asking such questions create an opening for them to give you honest feedback. And when you have got things correctly, the prospect tells you by saying things like: “Yes! Exactly. You got that right or you nailed it. Similarly, if you have missed out on important things, they will tell you that also by saying: “No, it’s not that or It’s more like this.

Psychology has this that we like to surround ourselves with people who think alike. So repeating and confirming makes sure that you and the prospect are on the same page and the trust develops better.

4. Ask a relevant follow up question

Once you have confirmed that you have understood the prospect, the next step is to ask a relevant follow up question.

Avoid questions that make you sound like you are only trying to make the sale. Ask open-ended questions that allow your prospect to open up and share more about their current plans, goals etc.

Open ended questions allow your prospects to express what they think. Asking right questions might bring them to the right conclusion themselves.

How effective are calls in the present scenario?

1 . Businesses that believe cold calls are dead generate 42% less growth than those that still use it

2. B2B customers use an average of six different communication channels

3. Over three-quarters of decision-makers have taken a meeting or attended an event that came from a cold call or email

4. 41.2% of surveyed salespeople say the phone is their most effective tool

5. 69% of buyers accepted a cold call from a salesperson in the past year

6. 27% believe cold calls to new contacts are either very or extremely effective, while 75% of C-suite-level prospects want to be contacted by phone

Ways to master active listening :  

Active listening is listening to understand and take an action and not just to keep the information. It is a skill and has to be acquired over time and practice to efficiently convert probable clients to customers. Here are 8 ways you can use to master active listening:

1.  Make sure the surroundings on both sides to listen effectively.

2.  Avoid interrupting the client when he is speaking.

3.  Be present mentally.

4.  Make the client feel heard.

5.  Listen in a solution-oriented manner

6.  Try to listen to what is not being said.

7.  Resist rebuttals in an impulsive way.

8.  Listen for information words.

The key is to stay focused and not miss a single chance to uncover new opportunities. If you don’t listen, you lose a chance to make a difference or to make a good sale. A bad experience on a call will reach 2 times more to people than a good one. So there is no shortcut to active listening.

Take home:

1. Phone calls are an integral part of customer relation maintenance, follow ups, taking complaints, feedbacks and also to create new customers. Active listening is the only way you can do so.

2. 60 % of issues between individuals and organizations are because of poor communication. Develop effective listening skills to avoid this mishap. 

3. Sales over phone is not a long lost strategy. Till date, up to 92% of all customer interactions happen over phone. Not denying the fact that the phone that we use has changed and it is not the primary channel for acquiring the sales anymore. But maintaining relationship after sales, a humble phone call is still the winner.

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