How Active Listening Can Improve Sales Performance

In a one-on-one conversation, have you ever missed part of what the other person was saying because you were thinking about what you were going to say next? If so, you’re not alone. Sales people are sometimes perceived as inattentive, overly talkative or pushing an agenda. But when you exercise active listening techniques, you can change that perception.

Following are some ways you can demonstrate to clients and prospects that what they say matters.

USE ‘IMMEDIACY BEHAVIORS’

Immediacy behaviors are subtle communication cues that show the speaker you’re paying attention. In person, that could mean making eye contact, nodding or facing the person who’s talking. Verbal cues – like, “I see,” and “Mmhmm,” also assure the speaker that you’re listening.

A study published in the Western Journal of Communication found that in one-on-one conversations where the speaker was describing a stressful event, speakers felt better after talking to listeners who used frequent immediacy behaviors. Verbal behaviors were three times as likely to elicit that result.

TAKE NOTES AND PARAPHRASE

Paraphrasing is a type of immediacy behavior that involves repeating a speaker’s words or phrases. And when you’re on the phone, you can jot down those keywords as the person is speaking. So if, for example, you hear a prospect lament about “problems with supply chain management” more than once, write that down and repeat it when there’s a natural break in the conversation.

Taking notes can also help you in subsequent conversations – and your notes don’t always have to be related to business. If clients mention an upcoming vacation or personal event, make note of it, and ask about it the next time you’re on a call.

LISTEN FOR OPPORTUNITIES

Letting people speak freely may help you recognize new opportunities. Maybe clients have a need they’ve never expressed – or one they don’t realize you could solve. That’s why it’s important to ask open-ended questions and listen carefully.

Listening – really listening – shows clients and prospects that they matter to you. When people perceive you as genuine and attentive, you’re more likely to be successful at developing and fostering those business relationships.

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