If you’ve ever worked with a salesperson that does not listen, you know firsthand how frustrating it is.

Whether you’re considering a large purchase like a car or a new home, or you’re just in the market for a new computer, working with a salesperson that is rambling off information that is not pertinent to your needs can lead you to not buying anything at all.

So how do you make sure you’re not making this notorious mistake and scaring away customers?

It’s easy, just make sure you’re a good listener. Well, okay, it’s really not that easy, but it really is important. First, let’s explore a few of the reasons why listening when selling is so difficult:

When you’re working with a customer, you have multiple forces that are pulling you in different directions.   There are your sales goals that are pushing you to close the sale as quickly as possible, your sales manager who is waiting on your weekly pipeline report, the customer who does not want to follow your company’s sales protocol, the bonus you receive for selling a specific product (aka spiff), and the family matters that you must tend to in order to keep things copasetic at home.

Of course, this list only touches the surface of all the neurotransmitters firing at once in the salesperson’s mind—there’s no wonder why salespeople find it so hard to listen to their customers. It’s just easier to spray your presentation all over the place and just pray that the customer is ready to open their wallet.

With this reality check in mind, let’s get down to business and dig into the three things you can do now to fight back against this common sales blunder:

 

Be Empathetic: Take off your “shoes”. Figuratively speaking, of course. By now someone in the sales profession has told you that you have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes so that you can figure out what their expressed hot-buttons are as well as their unexpressed hot-buttons. This means you must be able to empathize with your customer.   Well, what you may not be aware of is that in order to put your customers’ shoes on and make this cliché a reality, you must first take off your own shoes. Every sale, every interaction with your prospect, must start with you purposely turning off those various forces filling your mind—enabling you to approach each interaction with a completely clear mind.

 

Ask questions: Once you’ve achieved step 1, the most difficult step by the way, you’re ready for step 2: start asking the right questions. While open-ended questions should be your gut response to this step, closed questions can also be constructive. This step is often referred to as the exploration or discovery phase of a sales presentation. It’s important to know that exploration is less of a step, and rather an ingredient of the successful close that must be infused into every interaction with your prospects. What questions you ask, and sometimes the order of the questions, is important, so be sure to spend time preparing your questions and preparing for the various possible answers.

 

Actively Listen: While there are a few specific definitions for active listening, there’s one common element that most experts agree on—the goal is make the speaker know that you are genuinely listening to her. Why is it important that your prospect feels like you’re listening? When people feel listed to, they are more likely to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. And when you are privy to this information, you are better able to help them make their purchase.

 

While all of us have our own unique pressures that fill our mind, it’s important to master the art of taking off our own shoes and switching our thoughts from our personal needs to the needs of our prospects or customers. Only then can we truly discover the hot-buttons we need to push to close the sale.

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