Good listening skills. Not enough sales professionals have them according to Author Barry Farber in a recent Entreparticle on the subject. He suggests it's because we feel more comfortable talking about ourselves and the subjects we know that we sometimes neglect to listen. After all, what could be easier? Another Farber theory is that sales professionals are so excited about their product they can't wait to tell prospects about it – and end up doing most of the talking. Consequently, they may not come away with a clear understanding of what their client really needs. So how does a poor listener break the cycle? As Farber points out, it does take a conscious effort to develop better listening skills, but you can do it with some practice. Here's how:
Take Notes When someone is taking notes, it means they value what is being said. The next time you meet with a prospect, be sure to bring a pad and pen. It shows right away that you want to capture whatever is most important to them.
Ask Questions Look for ways to extract information about key needs/issues. One technique that helps get people talking is "parroting" – repeating the last few words a prospect says as a question. This encourages people to elaborate more on the subject.
Make Sure You Understand One way to make sure you really understand what your client needs is to repeat back what he/she has told you. Re-phrase what you think you've heard to make sure you've understood correctly. If you're a bit off-base, your client can clarify important points.
Practice The next time you are at a party or event, Farber advises, "shut up and listen." Find out as much as you can about people while revealing as little as possible about yourself. Don't interrupt and resist the urge to jump into a conversation that interests you. Instead, just watch and listen. You'll be surprised about all of the new, interesting, and valuable information you'll learn.