Did you know 68% of B2B customers are lost because of indifference or perceived apathy, not because of mistakes? (Source: The Annuitas Group).
That’s a fascinating statistic, isn’t it! It shows us that many businesses haven’t differentiated themselves in any way to stand out and be remembered by their target audience.
Listening is where you can make a huge difference in this area.
Ask yourself these simple questions:
- Are you really listening to your customer?
- Are you hearing what the customer is saying?
It’s far too easy to focus on closing the sale and miss that human connection that is so important.
Focus on the buyer’s journey
You’ll hear me talk about the buyer’s journey all the time in my blog posts, webinars, and strategy sessions, and that’s because it’s such an essential part of the sales process. The buyer is in control, and you need to understand them better. How do you do this? You listen!
There are 3 key parts to a buyer’s journey:
- Awareness – this is where you need to show up on your customer’s radar.
- Consideration – this is where the customer considers using your services or products.
- Decision – this is when they decide if they want to buy or work with you.
How does listening fit into this buyer journey?
Awareness + Listening = as a business owner, you need to understand that when you show up and become visible to your ideal customer, you share the right messages. It’s up to you to answer (and ask) the right questions. To do this effectively, you need to listen to what your audience needs from you.
How many times have you been in a conversation where you realise the person you’re talking to isn’t listening? It’s frustrating. You don’t want your customer to feel like this. Flip that on its head and think about how empowering it is when you feel heard. That’s what you want your customer to experience.
Consideration + Listening = if your ideal customer wants to know more about your services or products, this is when you need to know what they want to know. You’ll also need to understand how they want to communicate with you, what they are asking you to do, and what they are looking at when searching for you and your business.
Decision + Listening = at this stage, you have usually moved to a verbal conversation such as a Discover Call, and you can build on the listening skills you’ve used this far.
70% of buyers fully define their needs on their own before engaging with a sales representative, and 44% identify specific solutions before reaching out to a seller (Source: CSO insights).
But what if they’re wrong? Yes, it happens. The customer may have decided which product or service they want from you. Still, upon asking the right questions and listening carefully to their answers, you may be able to offer a better solution.
What are the 5 stages of listening?
Your brain is a beautiful tool, and I often wish I’d done a psychology degree as this topic is fascinating. Did you know your brain process 34GB of data every single day? Yes, it filters some stuff, but then it decides what is important and what isn’t. How amazing is that!
So what happens when you hear something?
- You receive the message
- You understand the message
- You check the message
- You absorb the message
- You transmit a response
All of this happens within milliseconds. Think about the times you hear something and then pause before answering – that’s your brain going through the five stages of listening.
Most people shy away from silence and pause in conversations, but it’s worth practising how to become comfortable in these moments and allow yourself time to listen deeply and not answer too fast.
When we rush to respond, we often miss the slight nuances given out by our customers. We must step into their world to fully appreciate what our ideal customer needs from us. You’ll find more information about loving your customer rather than selling to them in my post, Sales Success: Stop Selling to Your Customers and Start Loving Them.
If you want your customer to know, like, and trust you (and ultimately buy), then you need to start listening to them.
You are all unique, and each has your own body language quirks, passions, and ‘isms’. To immerse yourself in the world of your ideal customer, you need to pick up on all of this, from the tone of their voice to the way they use their body to express themselves.
What are the physical factors when listening?
When you genuinely listen, you should tap into these physical elements.
- Maintain eye contact, so your customer knows you are listening to them
- Visualise what is being said (create an image in your mind of what your customer is telling you so you can offer them the right solution)
- Remain neutral – this can be tricky to master! Instead of jumping in with ‘I don’t agree with that’, try a softer approach by saying something like ‘I never thought about it like that.’ The customer now feels like you’ve listened to them.
- Don’t interrupt – another tough one! When you are passionate about your product or services, it’s tempting to rush forward with your super solution before your customer has finished talking. All this tells the customer is that you weren’t fully connected to what they were saying. A great tip to stop yourself from interrupting is to hold your breath, which automatically prevents you from speaking. Obviously, you won’t be able to do that for a twenty-minute conversation, but it’s good to get you started!
At the end of a conversation, you’ll have the opportunity to summarise what the customer has just told you (confirming that you were listening), introduce your super solution, and then reflect and clarify your customer’s needs.
Using sentence starters like ‘So what you’re saying is…’ lets the customer know you were listening to what they said and understood what they were asking.
Don’t underestimate the power of the following:
- Interactions – a nod or a smile
- Your posture – don’t turn away from the customer
- Mirroring – when you imitate gestures, speech patterns, and attitudes (often unconsciously)
- Exchange – sharing relevant stories to show you understand or have something in common
Listening is where you can make a huge difference to your business relationships.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw.
I love this quote as it shows us how easily communication breaks down when you don’t listen. This is backed up by the statistic that you spend approximately 60% of your communication time listening but only retain 25% of what you hear.
It’s worth recognising that listening isn’t just about the auditory act. As business owners, you need to be mindful of your words, stories, environment, perceptions, and interpretations.
How can you become a better listener?
Here are a few exercises for you to have a go at:
- Sit in silence for 3-minutes a day – focus on the quiet, and be mindful of what you can hear. Is there a ticking clock somewhere, birds in the trees, a boiler humming, etc.?
- Sit in a noisy space and try to identify different sounds – pick out certain sounds from the jumble of noise, such as the coffee grinder in a coffee shop or the drums in a piece of music.
- Focus on one noise – listen to a specific piece of equipment such as a washing machine or lawnmower and search for patterns, rhythm, or beats.
The rewards for listening in a sales environment are huge, so have a go at these exercises and start to listen to your ideal customers. Something quite special happens when you get it right, and your customers will remember that you were engaging, supportive, and worth putting their trust into.
Want to learn more about authentic selling?
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