Salespeople typically focus on talking. They launch into their pitch as soon as they can, especially if they have a practiced speech all ready to go. There’s just one problem: Potential customers are turned off if they think they aren’t being listened to, or worse, if they can’t even get a word in edgewise.

This gap makes it important to break the habit of running sales pitches the way one would run a computer program. Instead, re-train yourself to listen to your customers. You’ll soon be rewarded with increased sales and customer satisfaction. Here are some tips to make this transition easier:

  1. Look in the mirror.

Know the kind of person you are, your strengths, weaknesses, and change your sales strategy to one that you think would work on you. Remember that both you and your potential customers are humans, not just parts in a faceless sales system. Treat them that way and your relationship and trust-building skills will become that much stronger.

  1. Remember that not all people like the same things.

Thinking of you and your prospect as humans is great; it’s important to always remember individuality. If the tactic that would typically work on you is not resonating with your prospect, you’ll need to change it on the fly or else lose the sale. Always keep in mind that the sale you are trying to make is not about you, it’s about the customer and how you can help them. So, tailor your conversations to the individuality of the person you’re talking to. Try to find a common personal interest or delight them in some other way that gives you a starting point to building a long lasting relationship. The same sales pitch your boss taught you is not going to work on everyone, the real talent comes into play when you can customize your conversation as it’s happening to make it genuine for you and the customer.

  1. Lose your fear of silence.

This is where you have to pay attention to cues from your prospect. If you listen and watch the prospect’s body language, you’ll know when you need to try a different tactic. Many salespeople are naturally talkative people with boisterous personalities, a characteristic that can often lead to speaking at a thousand miles per hour. Many people either get stressed out or lose interest when salespeople are firing off their pitch too fast.

Practice recognizing how the customer is absorbing your information and either slow the conversation down or switch to a different tactic so you don’t lose their interest or trust. Another tactic to practice is pausing when your prospect is done speaking before you get your engines going again. Often you’ll find that they have something more to add that you never would have heard if you had begun talking again right away.

  1. Ask questions. Lots of them.

In a proper conversation between two or more people, you alternate between listening and talking, and the rules shouldn’t change in sales conversations. Especially during the first half of your conversation in the information-gathering stage, ask your prospects questions to get a better idea of who they are, what business goals they have, and the pain points that they need help solving.

Starting the conversation this way avoids putting too much time and emphasis on features that your prospect doesn’t care about and increases your likelihood of keeping them engaged. A key best practice is to use “tell-me” statements such as, “Tell me what goals you have for 2017 marketing that you didn’t achieve in 2016.” This prompts prospective new clients to tell their stories and experiences and gives you the chance to listen and absorb their information to best customize your sales approach. Also don’t assume anything! Fill knowledge gaps with more questions to show your prospect you are listening carefully and are truly trying to understand them, because you are!

  1. Build more meaningful relationships.

It really comes down to taking the time to get to know your prospects on a deeper level than what a generic phone call or email delivers. No one wants to be treated like everyone else, so you as the salesperson have to go the extra mile to delight your customers to make them feel special. You never know what kind of opportunities are going to present themselves down the road so establishing genuine and meaningful relationships now could benefit you long after your sales cycle is complete.

By listening to your prospects, you’ll learn to be much more agile and effective in your sales efforts and that in turn leads to stronger, more honest and open relationships. Soon enough, you’ll see the value in the effort as it translates to happier customers and increased sales. If you would like to know more about how to create a customized sales approach for your prospects or tips on how to build stronger business relationships, please contact me.