Listening: The Vital Skill to Consultive Selling

Consultative selling matches a buyer's need with the service or product. To accomplish this, a good salesperson understands the spoken needs, anticipates the unspoken needs, and delivers the service or product to meet those needs. Listening is the skill that brings about the connection. 

To better develop your listening skills, here is a list of practical steps:

Keep constant eye contact. If meeting in-person, make sure to turn off and set aside all mobile devices and keep eye contact. This will not only signal to the speaker that you are indeed listening, but acts as a "blinder" for your own mind and thus ears. This works if you are meeting on the phone as well—even if the speaker cannot see you, they can often tell a difference in your focus. Bonus: you might catch unspoken signals.

Do not interrupt. This one ought to be a no-brainer, but is probably the most difficult in practice. Just simply listen. Take notes if it helps you stay focused and save your questions until the appropriate time.

Do not judge or evaluate. Listen to the end without making judgements or evaluations as these will influence what you hear as you listen. At the right time, ask good questions (see below) and repeat it the way you heard it to get feedback to make sure you did indeed hear correctly.

Do not impose your solutions. Since a salesperson often feels they are in the "provider" role, it's easy to forget that although you've been implicitly asked for help with a solution, your role is to help the speaker discover a solution on their own, which is hopefully the product or service you sell. Asking questions such as "What has worked or not worked in the past?" can help the speaker share the right information to help the salesperson propose the right services and products.

Ask more (good) questions. Listeners can guide conversations by asking questions that benefit the speaker. Good salespeople are thoughtful about what the speaker needs help with most (often being more of an expert in the problem and solutions) and crafting a question that would lead the speaker to search for an answer.

Summarize. At proper intervals during the conversation and at the end, summarize what the speaker shared, the needs they brought to light, the solutions they convinced themselves they needed, and ask for the opportunity to show them those solutions (if you offer them). If you don't offer those solutions, say so. If you know who might, help them get connected (e.g. send intro email, help them find the contact info on a website, etc.)

Reflect. Plan buffers between calls so that when you finish a conversation, you can reflect on what you heard and learned. This will allow you to determine if there are any missed opportunities such as moments you missed potential leads or moments when you remained silent versus asking questions.

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The Value Based Team

Value Based Inc. is a boutique consulting company changing the sales and marketing culture and how both are viewed by the world, around the world. We are former Presidents, Vice Presidents and Deans from the software, technology, manufacturing and higher education sectors. Our clients have acknowledged us as authentic and real, willing to roll-up our sleeves, come along side and go the extra mile with them. Clients using our marketing and sales strategies to increase sales include companies from all sectors, primarily software and manufacturing as large as IBM, GE and 3M as well as hundreds of SMBs. Our custom strategic enrollment plans have been used by over 30 universities and colleges from throughout North America and Europe to increase enrollments.

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