Can you hear me? Are you listening?
Sleigh bells ring….are you listening? When you hear certain lyrics, does it evoke an emotional response?
Think about it : When engaging with a customer, we want to create an emotional connection. Remember, the buying process is based on emotion, and justified with logic. So, you really have to listen to your customer and “tune in” to build that relationship. Remember, the Emotional Brain is 24 times stronger than the Logical Brain!
The quote “you have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” has been used for years when emphasizing the need to listen more and speak less. I can’t really disagree with this theory when it comes to sales. However, I understand that salespeople love to talk! And talk they do! If you are truly passionate about what you are selling (from toothpicks to luxury cars) you can’t help but want to tell everyone all about it!
Remember the car salesman who wanted to sell me a manual shift Mazda Miata when I was 8 months pregnant? It was July and probably upward of 90 degrees outside - I wasn’t exactly hiding under a winter coat. One would have thought perhaps some of my needs would have been apparent (pun intended!). Maybe suggesting a minivan would have been more appropriate. In any case, the guy did not ask a single question before launching into his sales spiel about the bells and whistles of the car. I heard “mwah, mwah, mwah”. However, the next guy was more tuned in to my immediate needs and offered me a seat and a bottle of water. With that, he proceeded to talk with me – we had a conversation – meaning two-way communication- that put me in a more comfortable position. Asking the right questions goes a long way to connect with a customer!
Sounds simple – but wait a minute. With everyone surfing the internet before they even contemplate buying anything from soup to nuts, asking the right questions is key. We know we need to use open and closed-ended questions to guide the conversation. Open-ended questions to get the customer engaged and sharing his/her thoughts. Closed-ended questions can control a conversation; when a customer goes off track and into a dialogue about their last vacation, their two kids, and two dogs, and what they had for dinner last night (you have been there/done that?!), then a quick closed-ended question can get things back on track - “and you said you needed meeting space for 50 classroom style?”. With closed-ended questions you just need to be sure you don’t come off sounding like a drill sergeant. Peppering a customer with direct, closed-ended questions makes them feel like it is an interrogation, and you sound like an order taker, not a solution provider.
To have meaningful, mutually beneficial conversations, you need to create the emotional connections. Using phrases such as “share with me….” , “describe to me…”, “tell me more ….”. Active listening is as much about asking the right questions as anything else. As the customer is sharing information, are you listening to understand – or listening to respond? There is a difference! Don’t make assumptions of your understanding – you know what happens when we assume!
Engage emotionally. If you have the luxury of meeting with a customer face-to-face, body language speaks volumes!
Did you know that during a conversation, only 7% of what is “heard” are the actual words. Tone and body language make up the bulk of what you are communicating! Try this – say “I’m going to love that!”- with sincerity and excitement. Now say it with a sarcastic “tone”. See how the same words communicate a vastly different message?
Naturally, on the phone, spoken words may account for a higher percentage of communication, but the point being, learning the subtleties being expressed through body language and tone of voice are critical to making that emotional connection. (Sorry, Alexa!)
And don’t be afraid of “dead air”! A thoughtful pause (and take a breath!) go a long way to communicate “I’m listening”. Then clarify your understanding of what the customer has expressed. Clarifying really says “I heard you”. Perhaps you picked up on a pain point (first time meeting planner wanting to impress her boss?). If you tune into a pain point and provide a solution, you will earn that customer’s respect, and he/she will like and trust you. And we know people buy from someone they like and trust! Think about it: have you ever bought something from someone you didn’t like?! I did not like the first car salesman, and I certainly didn’t trust that he was going to provide me with a beneficial solution!
Ask the right questions the right way
Remember how song lyrics can make you feel – it is not just through the words, but through the tone and pace of the music. So, go ahead …. Are you listening?