“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”
“Nein, ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch.”
Okay, then let’s do this in English.
I often find myself in this exchange, as I have relocated to Germany. Although I am learning the language, people love to speak English to me.
I think this is because it’s easier for the individuals I speak with. Also, they get to practice their English. But, this is not an article about my language learning woes.
This is a look at what learning a language is teaching me about how to better listen to your customers.
Listen to Your Customers
Before learning German, I had only “pretended” to learn Spanish. I took Spanish classes for four and a half years in school, and never gained fluency. I was never even close. In my short time learning German, I am further along than I ever was in Spanish.
This could be the result of need. I never had to use Spanish. As a result, in school we just kind of went through the motions. More important than learning a language to communicate, is what the learning a language is teaching me.
It is teaching me to become a better listener. I now need to listen better when speaking German, as I have to translate and interpret what is being said.
What this has revealed is that I am not a good listener.
In fact, I’m a terrible listener. I continually think of what I am going to say next. Either to one up the person I am speaking with or to tell them how great my product or story is.
This is not a good trait to have in Sales.
If you listen to your customers, it provides empathy and understanding. It’s the best way to understand their business.
Poor Listening exposed
I have been on many initial sales calls where I probably missed a customer queue. The customer letting me know their problems.
The real problem is not understanding the extent of the problem. I now know I need to continuously practice my listening skills. Engage better in conversations. This means conversations may have awkward pauses while I get my thoughts together. That’s ok.
If I understand and am engaged in the conversation, the awkward pause will be outweighed by the solution I provide.
Moving In The Right Direction
What am I doing now to improve my listening?
For starters, I am speaking to people to practice my new language. You don’t need to learn a language to practice good listening skills. A few tricks that I have come across are:
1. Ask A Recap Question
This is an important concept and provides two benefits.
The first is it helps you clarify the customer’s thoughts. You can ensure you’re both on the same page.
The second is that it will give you a bit of time, with no awkward pause, to gather your thoughts.
2. Put Your Phone Away
Having your phone out during a sales call is a recipe for distraction. Not only are you continually looking to see if someone has texted or called, but you portray that your customer is unimportant.
This leads to distraction. To the customer, it seems like you’re not listening.
3. Prepare For A Conversation
Preparation for a call can’t be overstated. This is more than just looking like you want the business. It will help keep you engaged so you can ask insightful questions.
The engagement the questions provide will help you listen to your customers.
For me, becoming a better listener is a work in progress. With better listening, I think I will close more sales and build better relationships. Now if my German would improve I’ll be in great shape.
How do you listen to your customers?
Good luck and good selling!