Wednesday, 29 June 2016 13:08

How Strong Listening Skills Leads to Better Customer Relationships

If your team has encountered obstacles lately in terms of building relationships with prospects, it might be worth investigating the level of their active listening skills. It’s a simple enough proposition: The more we listen closely to what our customers have to say, the better we’ll understand their needs and challenges, and respond appropriately.

From our experience in the hardwood lumber industry we have found time and time again that better listening leads to deeper conversations, trust and more long-term client relationships. matt-v-tour

“People buy from people, so a sales relationship becomes more difficult if two people can’t communicate effectively,” note the experts at Value Selling Associates. “The greater the trust and rapport, the easier it is to get the client to share their perspective, including their personal motivations, and to listen to how your products can create value for them.”

When we focus on active listening we urge our team to keep these tips in mind. Maybe some would work for you.

Ask questions. The greater part of any sales call should involve asking questions of the customer or prospect. This can be especially true in the hardwood lumber industry when many of our interactions are typically transactional in nature and conversation can be short and generic. For us, there’s no better way to understand what the customer is looking for than by directing the conversation with “Tell-me” questions. For example, “Tell me how you are using hardwood lumber. Or, tell me what inventory issues you are experiencing these days.” Such questions encourage the person to speak at length about their concerns.

Don’t interrupt! Resist the urge to jump in and proclaim, “We’ve got just what you’re looking for!” Such interruptions could alienate the customer or prospect and derail the flow of conversation.

“Lose your fear of silence,” advises sales and marketing expert Lindsay Kolowich. If you pause when the other person has finished speaking, “they will often have something to add on that you never would have heard if you’d begun talking right away.”

Refrain from multitasking. During a sales call, it’s often tempting for a sales rep to check his or her email or text someone about an unrelated matter. This should be avoided at all costs. Even over the phone, prospects can tell when the sales rep is distracted and not paying full attention.

Take plenty of notes. At Baillie Lumber, we strongly encourage our team to take notes during meetings with customers. We believe taking notes helps us to truly listen to what are customers are telling us, slows down the needs analysis process and helps increase retention of the true customer need.

Clarify and summarize. You can demonstrate the depth of your active listening by rephrasing the other person’s thoughts back to them. This demonstrates how well you’ve been listening and opens up the opportunity to clarify any points that might otherwise be misunderstood. It’s an effective way to keep the conversation on track, while also laying the foundation for a trusting buyer-seller relationship.

Bring up anecdotes. In a follow-up call to prospects, you’ll make a great impression by referencing your notes from the initial call. “This applies to anything from how many people they have on their team to a story about their daughter they told you during the call,” Lindsay Kolowich notes. “Acknowledging these friendly references will help you build up rapport with your prospects.”

The vast majority of hardwood lumber buyers feel that, in general, salespeople talk too much and don’t listen enough. Perhaps that can be said for your industry as well. Imagine the impact you’ll make by behaving in the opposite manner!

Tony Cimorelli
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