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Expert Tips to Communicate Effectively

Active listening is a powerful way of listening and responding to customers, that improves mutual understanding. It is the foundation of effective communication and demonstrates real respect.

According to Nancy Kline, author of the book “Time to Think,” when you are listening to someone, much of the quality of what you are hearing is your effect on them.

Giving good attention to people makes them more intelligent. Poor attention makes them stumble over their words and seem stupid. Your attention and your listening is what is important. When we are in conflict, we can sometimes contradict the customer, denying their description of a situation. This tends to make them defensive and they will either lash out or alternatively, withdraw and say nothing more.

However, if they believe that we are really tuned in to their concerns and want to listen, they are more likely to explain in detail what they feel and why. This in turn gives sales people a much greater chance of being able to develop a win-win solution.

Your role in the sales situation alternates between sender and receiver of messages. The very best sales professionals devote a large portion of the sales interview to listening, because sincere listening demonstrates sincere interest. Ultimately, good listening is the shortest distance between you and more sales; better sales, faster sales.

How often has a customer said something that has been misinterpreted by you? If you accept the view that everyone is unique, then every word has a different meaning to different individuals? What we say can be different to what we actually mean, because we all have to edit our thoughts in order to communicate them in words. We do this by a combination of deletion, distortion and generalization

Communication involves four steps:

  • Sensing the message and the stimuli that goes with it
  • Interpreting it (to be sure you understand)
  • Evaluating it (never judge before you understand)
  • Reacting (either verbally or non-verbally)

That’s why it pays to listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Frequently, a gesture, an expression, will reveal as much or more than words. Therefore, effective listeners seek to understand the meaning behind their customers’ words. This requires giving the other person full attention and demands conscious practice.

To become excellent at listening, there are three main techniques:

1. Build high levels of rapport and trust your instincts.

When two people have established high levels of rapport, they unconsciously pick-up on the feelings of each other. At this point the sales person may get an instinct about something the customer “feels,” which is important feedback that is driven from their unconscious mind.

Trusting these instincts can sometimes prove to be a challenge for people who work in a corporate, logical environment, yet the ability to listen and act upon these instincts can make the difference between a good listener and a great listener. If for example, you have created rapport and start to feel nervous, then chances are so is your customer. Imagine the impact of asking, “I’m getting a sense that you’re feeling nervous about this, what specific concerns do you have?” will have on your customer.

2. Demonstrate that you are paying attention.

This really encourages the customer to continue talking and helps put them at ease because they can see that you’re interested in what they are saying. Using noncommittal words with a positive voice tone that neither agree or disagree with what is being said, will ensure that the customer remains motivated to want to continue talking. For example, “I see/Uh-huh/That’s interesting” are great ways to achieve this. Nodding your head and taking written notes are also effective when demonstrating your interest.

3. Clarifying your understanding.

Adopting a consultative approach means that it’s vital to fully appreciate your prospect’s requirements. Even if you think that your prospect has made them very clear, it’s good practice to summarize your understanding of them. For example: “So what you’re saying is (requirement).” “You obviously value (requirement) as being very important to you.”

These summaries will strengthen your relationship and demonstrate a genuine desire to really understand what they want. Rephrase their main points at regular intervals and play them back to them. This helps them see if they have said exactly what they wanted to say and to make sure you understand. Put their feelings into words. This will help them evaluate and perhaps modify their statement … and it gives further evidence of your understanding.

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