I was just about to nod off when I heard the noise. Instantly awake, I sat up in bed and strained my ears for any sound. As my mind settled, I became aware of every creek and pop. I could hear the even breathing of my dog, Spencer, at the foot of the bed. I could hear the ticking of the clock hanging in the next room. And I could hear the rustling of the branches on the tree outside my window. The sound that had startled me turned out to be a neighbor getting home late.
It’s surprising what you can hear when you stop and listen. Put aside all the distractions and suddenly even subtle cues come through loud and clear. What’s sad is that we rarely settle down enough to hear clearly. If we made an effort to listen more closely, we might pick up on a few things our customers are trying to tell us.
During any given interaction, a customer could be providing you with one or more cues – hints that, to the attentive ear, suggest opportunities for additional business. Customers are often ignored following their initial purchase. Oh, any subsequent maintenance is handled appropriately, but little attempt is made to determine additional needs. Attention has shifted to locating the next potential prospect.
Most salespeople chase transactions, not relationships. With such a narrow focus, it’s easy to overlook secondary cues and leave the relationship only partially explored. Listen carefully, though, and you’ll find that existing customers often have additional needs, responsibilities, wants, and dreams. Think about it, and you just might be able to help them.
The key to picking up on these cues lies in listening, but most of us have forgotten how. Real listening involves more than just our ears:
- Listening involves eliminating distractions. You can’t really listen if you’re working on your computer while the customer is talking. You can’t listen if you’re checking for texts or updates on your smart phone. And you can’t listen if you’re eavesdropping on your coworker’s ongoing conversations. Listening requires turning away from competing noise.
- Listening involves settling your mind. You can’t really listen if your thoughts are on other projects or interests. You can’t listen if your brain is busy trying to figure out the solution to some kind of personal issue. And you can’t listen if your focus is on determining what you will say next. Listening involves clearing your head of competing thoughts.
- Listening involves focusing on the customer. You can’t really listen if your primary concern is completing the transaction. You can’t listen if your attention is on closing the deal. And you can’t listen if your more interested in what come next than what’s happening now. Listening involves being fully present in the moment – your customer’s moment.
I’ve certainly sleepwalked through my share of customer interactions. There’s no doubt in my mind that I missed a number of cues that would have led me to more meaningful relationships and additional business. Had I eliminated distractions, settled my mind, and focused on what the customer was saying, we’d have both been better off.
Going forward, I’m going to be more intentional about how I approach listening. It may take a while, but like any skill I’ll get better at it with practice. I owe it my customer and my business to do so. Hopefully, I won’t sit up at night wondering what I might have missed.
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