After you ask open-ended questions to encourage buyers to begin talking, it's important to engage effective listening skills. Otherwise, why bother asking questions, right?
Have you ever spoken with people who are not paying attention to your conversation? Through their nonverbal behavior, you sense that their thoughts are elsewhere. Buyers will have a similar experience if they sense you are not listening attentively. You ask a question…and halfway through the buyer’s answer, you start thinking about how to respond. The nonverbal transformation from listening to waiting occurs in an instant. Like a cat waiting to pounce upon its prey, you anticipate the moment when the buyer will stop talking--instead of continuing to listen to them.
Do you think your buyers can sense when you have stopped listening? (That was a closed-ended, rhetorical question.) Buyers may not be able to identify the specific nonverbal behaviors that indicate you have stopped listening, but they will know. When buyers know you are not listening to them, they may decide that answering your questions is a waste of time.
How can you show buyers you are actively listening? You can employ listening skills…just like you employed your questioning skills to get them talking.
When your buyer answers your questions, how do you non-verbally show her that you are listening? Possibilities include:
+ maintaining eye contact
+ nodding your head in agreement
+ smiling or laughing at the buyer’s humor
+ facial expressions
+ leaning forward slightly
+ conveying curiosity and interest through your voice tone
Reflective listening is a natural activity when speaking with friends and family. It involves the nonverbal listening skills mentioned above as well as verbal encouragements such as:
“Tell me more.”
“Then what happened?”
As the buyer answers your questions and provides valuable information to help you make the sale, give her your feedback about what she is saying. That demonstrates you are actively listening, and it encourages her to continue talking.
For example, listen to how a television or radio talk show host encourages his guests to talk. He does not interview his guests like a news reporter, drilling them with one sharp or curt informational question after another. Rather, the talk show host encourages relaxed yet lively conversations fueled by open-ended questions and reflective listening.
Peter C. Mclees, Sales Coach and Trainer