How to Listen for Better Sales

How to Listen for Better Sales

Sales is about showing value and overcoming objections. Central to this process is understanding the prospect enough that you can effectively address their needs and anticipate the concerns that keep them from buying. This takes listening.

There are many ways to listen for better sales, of course. One method is asking questions and actively listening instead of jumping straight into a canned sales pitch, but there also are other ways of listening in our multichannel world. These include a prospect’s viewing history on your website, the marketing emails that have caught their attention, previous customer service interactions, and social media interaction.

An effective sales effort uses all five of these channels for better understanding the customer prior to the sales pitch. Often this listening makes all the difference when it comes to showing appropriate value and overcoming objections.

Here’s an action plan for ensuring that you understand your prospect before the pitch for better sales.

1. What are they saying on forums and social media?

A lot can be learned about a prospect by listening to them on forums and social media. Through public spaces such as Twitter, you can quickly see the latest offerings and events that are shaping your prospect’s business. In industry forums, you can uncover challenges the company might be facing.

Some of this information you can glean from a few minutes of Google searching, and if you use a social CRM then much of the social data already is tied to the contact and you only need to review it before your meeting or sales call.

Here’s an action plan for ensuring that you understand your prospect before the pitch through better… Click To Tweet

2. Are there clues in your customer service ticketing system?

If a prospect has a history with your customer service department, you have a great opportunity for uncovering their needs and concerns before even talking with them.

Interactions with customer service lay bare a prospect’s needs, concerns and questions. With a little thoughtfulness, you can spot opportunity in these support tickets and come into your pitch already knowing what will pique the interest of the prospect. Don’t neglect support tickets in the sales process!

This requires integrated sales, marketing and customer service, of course. If your business doesn’t enable sales to see support tickets tied to a contact, advocate for this functionality as an essential sales need.

3. Which web pages has your prospect visited?

The ability to see which pages of your company’s website a prospect has visited is an almost unfair sales advantage. Knowing which product and feature landing pages a prospect has browsed, how long they’ve looked at these pages, and how often they’ve visited is a crazy advantage going into a sales pitch.

If you know your prospect’s browsing history on your company’s site, you’re clued into exactly what interests them about your firm’s products and services. This gives you almost magical knowledge.

While web page user tracking is a hallmark of expensive marketing software, the good news is that you also can get this functionality through Agile CRM at a price point any SMB can afford. Make sure your business is tracking prospect web page views for some of the most subtle but effective sales listening.

4. What emails are drawing attention?

Similarly, a subtle form of sales listening is watching which emails a prospect has opened and what links they have clicked on.

If a prospect has taken the bait for marketing emails tied to a specific product, this is valuable information for the sale. If they have clicked on several promotional emails but not taken the plunge, you have a fair indication what interests them, and you can tease out their concerns during your pitch.

Actions speak louder than words, and both opened emails and clicked links are strong actions to watch in your preparation for closing a sale. Listen to what your prospect is saying implicitly when they choose which emails to open and links to click.

5. Are you actively listening?

Finally, one of the most important forms of listening takes place during verbal and face-to-face interaction with a prospect.

The ability to actively listen has been proven to dramatically improve the capabilities of sales professionals, as executive sales coach Keith Rosen has noted. Yet actively listening is a weak point for many sales pros, so it is worth focusing on.

Leave room for silence when meeting with prospects, never interrupt a prospect when they are talking, be present and listen for what is not said as much as what prospects do communicate. You also can improve your listening by paying attention to the implied meaning behind the words of your prospect, not just the words themselves.

Closing the sale requires understanding your prospect. So if you want more sales and a better close ratio, get good at listening. This happens both before you meet a prospect and during the meeting itself.

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Peter Kowalke

Peter Kowalke is a journalist and editor who has been covering business, technology and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years.

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