1. Always take notes
You don’t need to be a stenographer to be effective at note taking. Just jotting down the key concepts, problems, issues, and prospect information directly from them will do. The act of taking notes forces you to focus on the prospect and what they are saying. You can only focus on what they are saying when you are taking notes. Your mind will less likely be wandering to what you are going to say next. An effective technique is to tell the prospect that you are taking notes. This will raise your status with them instantly.
"Mr. Smith, I’m taking notes because I don’t want to miss anything and need this critical information you are sharing with me to better serve you."
By telling them in advance, they will understand when you ask them to repeat themselves or slow down or give you a moment.
"Mr. Smith, I am sorry, but my shorthand needs a little help. I want to clarify the information on __________. Could you please go over that again, so I can get it on paper?"
By doing this, your prospect will experience the warm feeling that you really care about meeting their needs. They will think, "This guy is different than the other salespeople I have worked with in the past."
If you have a customer relationship manager (CRM) that you use, I would suggest learning the skill of typing and listening at the same time. This will allow you to avoid doing the work twice - taking the notes on paper and then transferring them to your CRM. It’s really double entry and doubles the work. Your prospect will hear the plunking of the keys, so you will want to let them know that you are taking notes in your CRM while they talk.
2. Ask more questions
Whoever is asking the questions is the one in control of the conversation. The asker turns into the receiver of information. If you want to learn, you need to ask. You don’t learn anything by talking. You already know all that you know. There is an old proverb that says even a fool appears wise until they open their mouth. Project brilliance through asking questions.
If I want to communicate with my son, Wesley, all I have to do is ask questions, and the floodgates open. He will tell me about his day, how he felt, what was awesome, what other kids did, what he wants to do tomorrow, how much he loves me. I get all of this information simply by asking a few questions. He is no different than any other human being. He wants to share but won’t share as much until asked.
Let me share with you a few general questions that are effective:
- Can you elaborate on that?
- Can you give me a little more perspective on that issue?
- Can you explain to me how this works?
- Can you review that again for me?
- "Bob, I’m not quite sure what you mean."
These will all move you off of a stalled position in your listening and discovery process and will allow you to gather greater information.
3. Instant replay
If you have done the first two steps correctly, you will be granted the third step. If you have done them poorly, you might not get to step three, or when you have reached this point, the prospect may have already tuned you out. As salespeople, we need to make sure that we got it right on paper and in our brain. The only way to do that is to instantly replay or summarize what we heard and understood the prospect convey.
You don’t want to repeat word-for-word what they said. Our job is to summarize accurately and interpret what we heard back to them, not become a Myna bird by repeating them.
When you engage in "instant replay", your prospect will often do one of these three things:
- Confirm that the instant replay was correct
- Correct your "instant replay" in the areas that you didn’t have it right.
- Give you new and additional information
All of these are terrific outcomes because you know you have it right when you hang up the phone. You also might get a bonus of more information. Usually, when they add information after the "instant replay", it’s really something important. You got into their inner circle and have insider information that most of your competitors will not have gotten. Because the information is so valuable, you want to increase your focus on listening.
When they share more information, you will want to repeat the process of the instant replay again and use a phrase at the end like:
"Do I have it right?"
"Bob, am I on the right track?"
"How does that sound?"