by Michael Hargrove Tweet
What is it that each and every customer wants from us? And no…it’s not $100 over invoice!
Since the dominant buying motive differs from customer to customer, what could the common need be? It’s this:
Two of the most basic of all human needs are to be valued and understood.
It’s what our spouses want when they have to tell us about the book they’re reading, it’s what our kids want when they show us their latest “boo-boo”, and it’s what each and every one of our customers wants every time they walk through that door. We’ve heard it before; our customer doesn’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
I have found that one of the most effective ways to help our customer feel valued and understood is through a skill called active listening.
There are four elements to active listening. They are:
1) attentive body language,
2) verbal attends,
3) leading questions,
Let’s take a look at each of these elements.
Attentive Body Language. By this I mean open posture, good eye contact, lean slightly forward, smile, nod our head occasionally, and raise our eyebrows sometimes. We need to avoid finger tapping, folded arms, looking away, looking at our watch, shifting our weight too often, yawning, and nodding off. It’s important we remember the formula 55-38-7. In 1967, in a study done at UCLA, professor Albert Mehrabian found that, in face to face communication, 55% of our message is conveyed through physiology, 38% is through tone/tempo/volume, and only 7% is conveyed through the words we use. So we need to pay close attention to what we tell our customers through our body and through the way we say things.
Verbal Attends. These are little verbal clues that let our customer know we’re interested. Things like “I see” or “uh-huh” or “really?” or “go on” or “sure, sure” etc. Just verbally letting them know “Okay buddy, I’m with you.” Remember: to be interesting, be interested.
Leading Questions. These are designed to do two things. First it lets the other person know we’re interested and second it helps them to completely express their idea, complaint or concern. Questions like “then what happened?” or “how did it make you feel?” or “anything else?”, etc.
Restate. We all probably already do this. That is paraphrasing back to the other person what we thought they said to us. Doing this will help us to eliminate any misunderstandings, it allows us to exclude from any further discussion irrelevant or undesired points and it confirms to the other person that we actually were listening! Most importantly, it gives them the opportunity to feel valued and understood. Once we’ve paced their most basic of all human needs, then and only then can we hope be able to lead them in any way.
Active listening is not simply waiting for our turn to talk. It’s not interrupting the other person to let them know that we know what they’re talking about. And it’s not interrupting a customer to let them know how our product or service fulfills a need they just shared with us. Active listening is being present, without prejudice, and without any agenda other than helping the other person be valued and understood.
Most of us only listen passively and active listening requires a little more effort. So, just like anything else we want to do well, it too will take a good amount of practice. I assure you, however, it will be time well spent.
The skill of active listening has made me more money than any closing technique or any whiz-bang sales strategy I know! It’s also a skill I encourage you to take home with you. Contrary to popular belief, home is not the place we all go to when we’re simply tired of being nice to people.
My hope for you is that, like it has for me, the skill of active listening will help to improve every relationship in your life.
© Copyright 2013 by Michael D. Hargrove and Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc. All rights reserved. Michael D. Hargrove is the founder and president of Bottom Line Underwriters Inc.