Customers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Learn how to improve your sales pitch by taking the time to understand your customers.
Even if you are the best sales person with an airtight pitch, you might fumble your sale if you don’t make space to listen to what your customer has to say to you. Steamrolling ahead without listening to your customer will cause you to miss key cues about what’s important to them, their hesitations, and their goals. Without this information, you’ll never achieve value alignment.
Listening well is your single biggest asset when it comes to selling. People fundamentally want to be understood, but many salespeople get so caught up pitching their latest whiz-bang widget that they don’t stop to investigate whether their customers even want or need it in the first place.
This is why, as a seller, one of the most important skills you need to develop is empathetic listening. I learned early in my career that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. To be an empathic listener is to understand someone intellectually and also emotionally.
Humans are emotional. Even the most stoic and guarded person feels emotion. Emotion plays a large part in determining human behavior. You need to know how to read the subtext of conversations and listen to the emotions to be an effective seller. When you seek to understand people, use questions to draw them out of their shell, and listen empathetically to understand what they are feeling on an emotional level. Understanding their emotions will help you make sense of their actions.
To be an empathic listener, you need to have trust. The other person will not divulge their life’s story if they don’t trust you. As a boss you might wonder why an employee’s performance is slipping, but you can only get to the root of the issue when you earn a degree of trust. Similarly, a salesperson will only understand a customer’s needs when they establish trust more deeply. Listening actively and with empathy is the best way to develop this trust.
A common trap that erodes trust quickly is assuming you know someone else’s experience. We all want to create common ground and relate to each other, but sometimes these efforts are misplaced. If you don’t know what to say, let compassion take the lead. Learn to be comfortable with silence.
The ramifications of COVID-19 means you need to listen with empathy now more than ever. The epidemic impacted every person in unique ways. Some people lost jobs, while others lost loved ones. The disease has affected how we work, meet, and play. In 30 years of selling, I’ve never experienced customers crying on the phone and in video conferences. When you start down a path of empathic listening, it can get real. People want to be heard so much these days; it’s almost deafening.
Now that you’re thinking empathetically, you need to act intentionally. There are three ways you can serve with empathy:
- On a cognitive level, you seek to understand the other person and their experiences.
- On an emotional level, you desire to understand what the other person is feeling and how they deal with their emotion.
- On a physical level, you put your words to action.
You now have a better appreciation of how difficult listening is, and why it’s so important. You know how to practice active listening and empathetic listening. Now it’s time to teach your team! Consider implementing “listening training” to prepare your staff and get some extra practice yourself. At important sales meetings, an extra set of ears goes a long way.
When the stakes are high, you want to make sure you’ve listened well and will remember all the vital information. Training your team to practice these styles of listening will ensure you all understand your client perfectly. Practice makes perfect. When you build a team of active, empathetic listeners, you will all walk away with greater clarity and understanding.
This excerpt has been adapted and excerpted from Billion Dollar Sales Secrets with permission from Joseph Paranteau. All rights reserved.
Joe Paranteau, the author of Billion Dollar Sales Secrets (March, 5, 2021) has worked at Microsoft for the last sixteen years, where he leads a sales team and serves as the industry leader for healthcare customers. Connect with him on LinkedIn or visit his website.
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