Those who listen close the sale

Not making as many sales as you’d like? Are you really listening?

By Richard McKinley

Posted on Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Good listening pays off

Really listening can:
• Persuade, motivate, guide
• Control a prospect’s purchasing efforts
• Inflate the prospect’s pride
• Uncover true needs and hidden sales opportunities
• Remove obstacles
• Guide the prospect’s thinking
• Identify when the decision is to be made
• Assist the client to identify any alternatives
• Help the client choose between their alternatives
• Motivate the client to take action and review their decision

While listening, do you practice these bad habits?
• Do something else while the client is speaking? Instead,
direct your attention on the client.
• Wait for a pause to get in your response?
• Listen with one ear? God gave us two ears and one mouth
for a reason.
• Repeating the same words while appearing to respond
to the client by saying things like “Fantastic…”
“Wonderful…” and the worn out “Awesome…”
Listening ceases when you have formulated your response,
you’ve been turned off by the client because you think there
are no opportunities for a sale, or when the client isn’t saying
what you want to hear.

Reasons for not listening:
• Taking the client/prospect for granted
• Being mentally preoccupied with other things
• Rudeness
• Lack of respect for the client
• Believing you know what the client is about to say and
interrupting.
• Not verifying the information before giving feedback

Sharpen your listening skills:
• Don’t interrupt with things like “But I think…” even if you
know the answer.
• Ask a question then wait for the response. Don’t answer
yourself.
• Listen without prejudging.
• Utilize listening sounds (Ah ha… Gee… I see… Really…
I didn’t know that…).
• Don’t offer an answer until the entire situation is heard.
• Listen for purpose, details and conclusions.
• If the client/prospect mentions an important point you
can use in your favor, do not interrupt. Make a mental or
physical note for later.
• Ask questions to qualify the situation, to clarify and to show
interest.
• Listen like you want to be listened to.

Learn listening cues:
• Voice tones can tell you the client is thinking. Are they low,
flat, monotone? Halting or slow?
• Watch your tone of voice when responding to the client.
Make sure that you always show a genuine interest in what the
client is saying. —Richard
An attractive lady enters your office dressed in smart business attire, a smile and an air of confidence.

As owner of this reputable sign business, you’re confident you have a large fish on the hook and all you need do is reel her in.

Unknown to you, she has been sent to your facility to wrangle concessions from you while inquiring about a potential banner project. She explains vaguely that her company is considering launching a regional campaign that will require, in her words, “lots of pretty signs,” namely banners.

Never mind the vague description of her needs and your hesitation to ask questions. You plow through your concept of what you envision to be her company’s sign needs and how you can create a program that is sure to enhance the campaign. After all, this is a large local enterprise you now envision as a client.

What’s it cost? During the discussion the lady politely halts the conversation and asks what you would charge for the banner with her company’s logo on the drawing she brought.

Seeing the opportunity to close a quick sale, you throw out a quick but less-than-profitable price. After all, in your mind this banner is one of many included in the proposal.

Directing the conversation back to the overall campaign, you continue your pitch without interruption.

Now you go in for the close. “How many banners are we expected to produce and are there time constraints?”

The lady smiles and gives you a purchase order number. She confirms the price and gives you the go-ahead for production. But there is one problem: her company only needs one banner right now, to insure the design of the banner will satisfy the Marketing Department.

You start to crawfish and explain that the price you gave was based on producing all the banners. Surely she doesn’t expect you to produce this one banner for the price you quoted in passing?

She reminds you that her current need was for one banner, with future quantities based on Marketing’s final approval. She says that she mentioned this in the early stages of her description of the campaign.

Now comes the twist. Do you give in, hoping to get all her banner business, or do you firmly state a profitable alternative and possibly lose future business?

Sound familiar? I remember a young sign shop owner back in the seventies having the same dilemma. He chose to make the banner and break even on the job, taking the chance that his shop would get all the business.

That young sign person was me—in my early days of selling. I did not get her future business, but I began to learn to listen and ask questions that uncover the true intentions of an experienced purchasing manager.

I learned that interactive selling begins with listening. In this example, I already had an opinion of what the lady was going to say. I had made up my mind before I began listening, or before I heard the full story and uncovered important details.

I discovered listening is difficult for several reasons. I feared losing control of the conversation. I jumped ahead in my thinking. I concentrated more on framing what I needed to say in my reply. Or, I failed to hear the meaning behind the prospect’s words.

To succeed in sales, one must learn to listen with the intent to understand. Listen with the intent to offer intelligent responses based on the client’s wants, not yours.

Remember, listen with the intent to understand, rather than to listen with the intent to respond.

Richard McKinley

Richard McKinley is semi-retired from the sign business and the promotional products industry. He lives in Howard, Ohio. He can be reached at richo@roadrunner.com.


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