Are You Listening to Prospects or are You Losing Sales?

BY Rachel Cagle
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On a scale of one to 10, how good are you at listening to prospects to fully understand them? Hearing what your prospects are saying to you is different than fully processing what they are saying. If you can’t make your prospects feel heard, you will ultimately make them feel ignored and lose their business. In this article, you'll learn:

  1. If you're good at listening to prospects
  2. How to get better at listening

Are You Good at Listening to Prospects?

Sometimes it can be difficult to listen to prospects. According to Mind Tools, there are a few situations salespeople often find themselves in that makes listening to prospects difficult.

When They’re Having Trouble Putting Their Thoughts to Words

You will run into situations during conversations with prospects where they’re struggling to find the words to express themselves, but you feel you know what they’re trying to say. It can be tempting to interrupt them in these situations in order to save time. However, it is never okay to cut your prospect off mid-​sentence. Even if you are correct in your assumption of what they were trying to convey, you’ll still make your prospect feel looked down upon and as if they can’t get a word in edgewise. When prospects don’t feel heard, they stop talking. And when prospects don’t talk, they can’t ask the questions they need answers to. When that happens, they won’t feel comfortable enough to make a purchase from you.

When There’s an Opportunity to Multitask

It can be difficult to give a prospect your full attention when they can’t see what you’re doing. You might be tempted to glance up at your computer screen when an email or instant message alert pops up. If it’s from another important prospect or client, you may be tempted to read and answer it. When you divide your attention between the prospect on the phone and the person you’re messaging, you’re not giving your full attention to either one. This can damage your relationship with both aforementioned prospects or clients.

When Silence Occurs

Many sales reps are uncomfortable with silences that occur during sales conversations. However, giving your prospects time to think is a crucial part of listening to prospects. When you feel compelled to fill every moment of silence that occurs during a conversation, you’re taking away your prospect’s opportunity to fully process the information you’ve given them. And when you panic every time there’s silence, you’ll probably end up overloading the prospect with information that they may or may not need.

When the Meeting is Interrupted

Whether you’re in a physical or video sales meeting with a prospect, there are bound to be interruptions from time to time. These are the situations that Denise Gibson, Director of AdMall Sales at SalesFuel, find the most difficult to maintain active listening through. “Any interruption is a problem,” she says. “Especially if you are at their place and the phone is ringing or people keep coming into their office.” It can be difficult to get the conversation back on track after one or more interruptions break the flow.

How to Actively Listen to Prospects

The frequency with which you may find yourself in these four situations may have lowered the initial listening score you gave yourself when you first began reading. But it’s okay. Pete Caputa, writing for HubSpot, says that there are options to let your prospect know that you’re still listening to them.

Reiterate What You Have Heard

Especially when you’re not directly face-​to-​face with your prospect, it’s good to practice active listening to prospects by repeating what you’re heard. “Your goal with this step is to feed back your understanding; that is to say, your best guess at what’s going on with the other person,” says Caputa. He says that you can do this one of three ways.

  • You can repeat, word for word, what you heard the prospect say to you. However, you shouldn’t take this approach more than a few times. Otherwise, you’ll sound like you’re just repeating the words without actually understanding them, like a parrot.
  • You can paraphrase what was said. This is an even more effective listening strategy because you’re showing that you’ve heard what was said and have noted all of the important points that you’ll then summarize. “However,” says Caputa, “avoid oversimplifying and leaving out important details — this might shake the buyer’s confidence in you.”
  • Repeat the summarization in your own words. This tactic also showcases that you’ve listened to the prospect and understand what has been said enough that you can process it in your own words.

Confirm What You’ve Heard

Sometimes, when you’re listening to prospects, the message can get jumbled. To prevent that from happening, all you have to do is ask the prospect if you heard them correctly. Once you’ve finished reiterating what you heard the prospect say, finish your summarization with something along the lines of, “Did I get that right?” If you haven’t, this is the perfect opportunity for the prospect to correct you. Also, if you repeat it and the prospect realized that they didn’t word their response the way they should have, they can correct themselves to give you the proper information.

Both tactics let the prospect know you’re always listening and are doing your best to understand exactly what they need from you.