How to Listen Like a Detective


I once heard an interview with a police detective that directly relates to sales. The detective was talking about various interrogation techniques, and he said something that I thought was brilliant and totally applies to the importance of listening while selling over the phone.

The detective said that when you ask a question you should never say or do anything that might cause your subject (prospect) to stop talking.

In other words, you listen. With full attention, and you don't interrupt. You don't ask other questions. You just keep listening even when you think they're done.

In sales, and especially in inside sales where you don't have all those visual cues, listening is the most important thing you can learn how to do.

Here are some techniques and tips you can begin using today to improve your listening:

  1. Use a script. One of the biggest reasons sales reps don't listen is because they're too busy thinking about what they're going to say next. This is especially dangerous to do during the qualification stage when your prospect is revealing why they will and why they won't buy.

    You must script your questions!

    By using a script, you'll be able to really listen and so pay full attention to what your prospect is saying.
  2. Don't interrupt. I can't tell you how many times I hear sales reps interrupting their prospects while they're still talking. Not only is this rude and disrespectful, but it shows they're really not listening.

    When I was new to the phones, in order to learn how to listen I had to literally put my hand over the mouthpiece and hold it above my head! That way I could babble on and blurt out whenever I wanted to say, all the while allowing my prospect to still talk.

    It was hard at first, but boy did it pay off. By not interrupting, I often heard my prospect tell me exactly what I needed to do or say to sell them.

    Get in the habit of catching yourself interrupting your prospects and start using the mute button on your phone. You'll be amazed by what they are trying to say.
  3. Allow some space after you think your prospect is done talking. Many times sales reps think that pauses mean that their prospect is actually done talking. Not so! I hear it over and over. Again, the reps can't wait to start talking so they will jump in as soon as their prospect takes a breath. Stop it!

    A good habit to get into is to pause a full 3 seconds after you think your prospect is done speaking--that's 1001, 1002, 1003, before you say something. Again, you'll be amazed by how often they will fill the space--and often reveal crucial information you'll need to make the sale.
  4. Use "Oh," Uh huh," and "What do you mean?" If you haven't heard the information you need to make the sale, use one of the above techniques to keep your prospect talking.

    Remember, they hold the key as to why they'll buy, and you will learn this only if they're talking and you are listening.
  5. Listen to your own recordings. You are recording yourself, are you? I'll write more about this in another tip, but you must listen to yourself closing a sale to know how and where you need to improve.

    Nothing brings this home more than hearing yourself talk over people, interrupt, or just plain miss what they are saying. If you're not recording yourself go to Radio Shack tonight and invest $50 in a recorder. It'll be one of the best investments you'll ever make.

So there you have it -- some simple yet powerful ways to improve your listening skills. Just remember above all, don't do or say anything that might cause your prospect to stop talking! Keep listening!
Mike Brooks
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