Producers spend lots of time talking with clients and prospects about all kinds of things. Every conversation is another opportunity to build a connection and have real influence. And the practice of active listening lets you make that connection stronger in multiple ways.
Active listening – rephrasing another person’s words to confirm what they’ve said – helps you to be sure you’ve got the details right. It also gives people confidence that you’ve understood what they meant, and that’s just the start.
Listening actively shows people that you’re interested in what they’re saying. This in turn encourages them to say more. When people have your focused attention and know you’re interested, their trust in you increases. That’s a big payback for giving someone a few minutes of your attentiveness.
Paying close attention to what’s being said may seem simple, but it’s not always easy.
Suppose someone’s giving you travel directions for a meeting that afternoon, but you’re listening with only half an ear, so you get lost on the way and end up late for the meeting. Cultivating the habit of listening actively insures that you’ve got it right, and will help you avoid ending up late or in the wrong place.
So you’ve gotten to the right place at the right time. Now you can focus your listening skills in on key points during the sales meeting. Let’s say you’re asking a manufacturing prospect about the insurance on his warehouse:
“Is there a sprinkler system in the warehouse?”
“They wanted us to put one in two years ago but we didn’t feel it was worth the investment.”
As an active listener, your first step is to repeat the prospect’s answer and wait for his agreement so that you’re both clear about the details:
“OK, two years ago you didn’t feel that adding a sprinkler system in the warehouse was worth the investment. Is that right?”
The prospect is assured you understand him. As you continue the exchange, rephrasing and acknowledging what’s being said, the prospect relaxes and feels that together, you’re both exploring the details in a collaborative way.
Do you still feel that way?
Has your current agent spoken to you about it since that time?
How much has your inventory increased in the last two years?
The conversation flows in a relaxed and natural way and at some point it comes to what seems like a mutual conclusion.
Maybe it’s a good time to re-think the cost/benefit of installing that sprinkler system.
However you connected with the prospect in the first place – a personal referral, a networking opportunity or even a cold call – he trusts you enough to give you his time. When you reciprocate by giving him your focused attention, showing that you understand the issues, recognizing his concerns, and having his best interests at heart, you’ve created the right atmosphere for your prospect to be receptive to your solutions.