If you want to sell anything to anyone, it truly starts by being an excellent listener. Some call this active listening. Others, like Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of High Effective People, refer to this type of listening as empathic listening.
Active Listening for Sales
Active listening is a form of listening that involves asking clarifying questions. It’s about more than just hearing what is being said. It means being attentive to what another person is saying and truly understanding the feelings or viewpoint of the other person.
Empathic listening follows a similar blueprint. Covey’s fifth habit is “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” He notes that empathic listening is the truest form of listening. Covey provides a template to begin practicing empathic listening:
- Mimic the content: repeat what the other just said.
- Rephrase the content: tell the same story, but in your own words.
- Reflect on feelings: focus on the emotions that lie behind what is told, not on the words that try to express these emotions.
- Rephrase the content and reflect the feeling: this is a combination of the second and third form of empathic listening. It shows that you are really listening and understand what message lies behind the words.
Practicing active listening will allow you to sincerely hear your prospects and customers. Especially relevant, you will understand what’s important to them, which provides opportunity for you to respond with a solution set that fits appropriately.
In a selling context, active listening moves your prospects from an intellectual perspective to an emotional perspective. This is important because people buy emotionally before rationalizing their decisions intellectually.
Active Listening Steps
So, are you ready to take action and practice active listening in your future conversations? Below is an active listening exercise designed to help you and your sales team to practice.
Have your salespeople pair up and score each other on their active listening skills. Also, you might consider videotaping practice sessions and reviewing the footage with your team.
Active Listening Checklist Exercise
- Affirming statements (“Hmmm” “Yes” “I see”)
- Clarifying questions (“You said ____. Does that mean ____?)
- Summarizing and “building” statements (“You said ____, which to me implies ____. Is that right?)
- “Digging” questions (“Tell me more about ____.” “What is the impact of ____?”)
- Not interrupting – letting the speaker finish her thought before responding
- Eye contact
- Posture mirroring
- Not fidgeting – focused on the conversation
- Nodding, smiling, engaging
. . .
Looking for other ways to improve and build better relationships with your prospects, clients, and colleagues? Check out our free eBook: How to Sell Anything to Anyone: A Problem-Solving Guide for Sales Managers, Sales Leaders, and Salespeople.