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Topics Covered: <a href='/resources/search/?query=Active Listening'>Active Listening</a>
Training & Resources
Canadian Professional Sales Association lock

Let’s face it, talking too much is a problem among some sales pros. When you finally get the ear of a hot prospect, it’s natural to want to seize the opportunity to pitch them your product or service right? But most of us know the dangers of a sales pro doing all the talking: it can alienate your prospects, annoy them and lead you down the wrong path.

Essentially, the more you talk, the less opportunity your prospect has to voice their opinions, problems and share what they’re looking for - and we all know that’s not helpful. Today, with a more consultative approach to selling being the mainstream, most pros know that they should be listening more but actually following through on this understanding can be tricky.

Here’s how to listen up and let your prospects lead the sales conversation.

Listen Up Tip One: Have a Plan

Before any interaction with a customer or prospect, have a plan and goal in mind. Make sure you know where you want the conversation to go. Perhaps your objective is to learn more about the prospect’s business needs, build rapport with them or get them to agree to a product demo. Whatever the goal, once you have it set in your mind, you can plan open-ended questions accordingly. With a strong plan and set of questions, you can ensure that you’ll get your prospect talking and the conversation heading the way you want.

Listen Up Tip Two: Strike a Balance

That being said, you want a sales conversation to feel natural and unforced -- essentially like a real conversation! To achieve this, you need to strike a balance between asking questions/listening and doing some talking yourself. Yes, you want your prospect to have most of the airtime, but they are unlikely to do much talking if it feels like you are subjecting them to the third degree. Use storytelling to share your insights, build on points of mutual interest, demonstrate product value and reveal your product/market knowledge. But do so judiciously. Give yourself a time limit: you should be talking for no longer than two minutes at a time. Keep a tab on yourself and if you start to go over, simply cut yourself off and ask another question.

Listen Up Tip Three: Calm Your Nerves

A common reason that salespeople talk too much is nerves. When we’re nervous, we can blather on awkwardly (which is definitely not going to build a prospect’s trust or confidence). Being adequately prepared for meetings is one way you can calm your nerves avoid talking too much. Another good tactic is to practise sales conversations with your coworkers to gain confidence and focus on being able to listen.

Listen Up Tip Four: Get Comfortable With Silence

For many people silence is uncomfortable. However silence can be a useful tool for sales; many people need time to consider their response to a question, so if you ask a question and dead air follows it, don’t freak out. Be patient and give your prospect time to respond. The fact that many people find silence awkward also can be used to your advantage -- your prospect themselves may feel the need to fill the blank space and reveal valuable information. The key to using silence effectively is to demonstrate your own comfort with it; don’t turn silence into a staring contest! Smile, take a sip of water and try to exude calm.

Listen Up Tip Five: Be Authentic

The most important thing to bear in mind is that people will only open up to you when they feel a sense of connection and rapport. To achieve this, you’ll need to be genuine and authentic -- a prospect can sniff a phony a mile away, and they won’t want to lead the conversation or indeed have any conversation with you if they sense you’re just going through the motions to make a sale.

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