How to Teach Listening Skills to Representatives

Listening Skills for Sales RepsA sales call does not need to center around a representative trying to woo their customer through the use of rehearsed lines and attempts at appealing to certain personal similarities. This strategy may not work due to the difficulty of differentiating between a pitch and a sincere attempt to gain business.

Management teams may struggle with the idea of letting the customer do most of the talking, but this strategy can help to ease the role of the representative. When salespeople listen and let the client air out their needs and worries about the product, it takes some of the pressure off of locking down a sale.

Due to the nature of the industry, many salespeople have never developed the skill of listening. This makes it essential to teach these representatives through training and development, according to Barrett Riddleberger, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Resolution Systems, Inc., a sales training and consulting firm.

“The assumption is, ‘I have all these products and features to sell my customer and I have a lot of product knowledge, so I’m just going to tell them all about it and something will stick,'” noted the executive. “That doesn’t work.”

Representatives should not go in with the premise that they will be doing most of the talking. The nature of the industry has changed, and it is no longer based on talking through a sale, it is based on listening your way through the process, noted Riddleberger.

“The way you listen your way through a sale is to create conditions for the buyer to do most of the talking,” said the executive. “It’s about their business and objectives – not your products and services, and this is called active listening.”

The job of the salesperson is to keep the conversation going through showing a clear interest in what the customer has to say, along with asking especially poignant and pertinent questions, according to Riddleberger.

Specific questions need to be asked during this stage of the process, as the representative needs to make sure that when they do speak, it will be something that will provoke the right answer.

It is important for the representative to see through the surface of what a buyer poses as the real question.

When they refer to a problem with an XYZ product, it may actually mean that the current service isn’t working, it is costing too much or the company is not working to suit their needs, the executive noted.

Once the targeted questions are asked, it is once again important for the representative to listen closely to the answers.

“Salespeople are scared to death of silence and if you’re scared to death of silence that means you are preventing yourself from thinking,” said Riddleberger. “You’ve got to able to to allow a pause, think and then respond.”

By showing that they are processing the information, a representative no longer looks reactionary, they look astute and qualitative, noted the executive.

“With training, RSI provides them with the knowledge, we role-model it for them so they can see it done correctly, then they’ll role play so they can try it out,” Riddleberger noted. “The difference between success and failure comes down to one work – practice.”

Representatives need to learn the correct open-ended questions to ask and find out what the buyer really feels concerning their current product or service. The notion of listening becomes much easier when the client has something to say, reported.