One thing salespeople are always taught is “know your customers,” but what does that really mean? I would say that the No. 1 service we can provide our customers is to listen to them.
While it should be easy, listening actually can be one of the hardest things we do.
Have you ever had one of those conversations when you realize the person you’re talking with isn’t really listening — they’re just waiting for you to finish so they can say what they’re thinking? I’m sure we’re all guilty of it every once in a while, but it’s in our best interests as sales people, coworkers and family members to be better, more effective listeners. It means you have to sit back and really hear what a person is saying to you. In this fast-paced world, our brains are constantly thinking about what to do or say next. We don’t like for there to be a pause or a break in the conversation. But isn’t that OK?
By pausing, you are letting your customer know that you are digesting and comprehending what they are saying to you, and not just jumping in with a sales pitch.
In her book, Listen to Succeed, Leslie Shore said, “effective listeners understand that listening does not mean just waiting for our turn to respond. They understand that listening effectively is the key to increased knowledge, emotional intelligence, business success, career mobility and productive and growing relationships. As effective listeners they have learned to put aside their egos and attend to the person they are listening to.”
“Attend to the person they are listening to” — I like that. You — whether you’re on the showroom floor, in the F&I department or the service department — can attend to customers by letting them know you are thinking about their wants and needs; asking questions to get to know them better. A few personal questions can clue you in on what a buyer is looking for — and what they can really afford.
By effectively listening to them, you find out what kind of person they are, and may find a common ground. This is the start of relationship building, which helps to form a bond that supports your long-term success. Customers who feel valued, appreciated and secure with you are more likely to buy from you and recommend you to their friends and family (and followers).
Shore also warns listeners about suspending judgment.
“Listening to what others have to say can be a difficult task,” Shore said. “Being judgmental is one of the major barriers standing in the way of effective listening. If we are to receive a speaker’s intended message in unadulterated form, it is essential that we remove judgment from our listening process while the speaker is speaking. On-the-spot judgments about what we’re hearing don’t benefit us or the speaker … We need to set aside our egos, our biases and our inner thoughts so that we don’t filter the speaker’s message until we’ve had time to consider it. This type of listening is highly reflective; it allows us to process the speaker’s communication first before we use our own experience and knowledge to create a reply.”
If you listen with an open mind, you can avoid jumping to conclusions about the customer, which allows you to fully engage with them. Be sure you document all details of your conversations into your CRM. It will help when you contact that customer again. You can bring up bits of your previous conversations — solidifying your connection and reflecting your superior listening skills.
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