By Kathy Sisk
So far, we’ve covered five techniques for more effective telephone communication: the strategic pause, voice inflection, volume, rate of speech, and pitch. Here are the final three:
Smile! I realize that you’ve heard this before, but because of its importance, it’s worth mentioning again – smile! It is important to smile as often as you can while prospecting on the telephone. Wouldn’t you smile if you were in a face-to-face presentation? Of course! Smiling when using the telephone projects a pleasant and friendly voice. And this creates a positive mental picture of you in your prospect’s mind.
Let’s try a simple exercise. Without smiling, say, “You’re really going to like it.” Listen to how it sounds. Now, smile! (If you don’t feel like smiling, “fake it.” As long as your mouth curves up, the effect of smiling will be there.) Okay, let’s try it: Smile and say, “You’re really going to like it!”
Can you hear the difference in your voice projection? Doesn’t it sound pleasant? If you are unable to hear it, do it in front of someone else and ask for feedback. Or you can record yourself and listen to yourself that way. You’ll be able to hear the difference. So, as the saying goes, “Smile and dial!”
Keys to Good Listening: Listening is an important skill. During the probing step, (discussed later), you will be asking open-ended questions which allow your prospect to communicate with you. By listening effectively, you can determine how you want to individualize your presentation, avoiding a canned or robotic style and giving you flexibility in presenting your products and services. This is your opportunity to customize your presentation based on your prospect’s responses. The following are some tips that will increase your listening skills:
- Let your prospect talk 80 percent of the time; limit your own talking to 20 percent.
- Identify with your prospect; place yourself in his or her position. The prospect’s problems and needs are important. You can better understand your prospect if you keep his or her point of view in mind.
- Ask questions if you do not understand something. You may be missing an important point. Asking questions shows your prospect that you are listening. Be sure your questions are open-ended.
- Don’t interrupt. Listen for a pause – that’s your cue to interject.
- Concentrate! Be on top of the conversation at all times.
- Take notes. Write down (or note in your contact management software) important points that can be helpful to your prospect. Be aware of the phrases that recur during the prospect’s comments. Later, bringing up certain comments made by your prospect will indicate that you were listening.
- Listen for attitude. You can learn a lot about your prospect’s attitudes and feelings by listening to the tone of voice. This awareness will help you overcome any objections that may surface later in your presentation.
- Do not respond to your own questions. Let your prospect do all the talking. When you respond, it will have an adverse effect on your presentation. However, you may respond to your prospect’s answers with another open-ended question.
- Turn off your personal problems. This can greatly affect your prospect’s attitude toward you. Your prospect can sense your problems and worries through your voice projection.
- Prepare yourself. Know your product and competitors. This will allow you to deal with objections effectively and confidently.
- Have empathy and understanding. Feel for your prospect, even if that person seems irritable. Do not let the prospect’s emotions affect your attitude toward them, and do not take it personally. Consider it a challenge to get on your prospect’s good side.
- Avoid making any assumptions about what your prospect is about to say. That is, allow your prospect to complete sentences. Otherwise, you may find yourself creating unnecessary objections in the process.
- Listen for mental pictures painted within your mind. This is a key indicator that the picture is an important issue. In effect, your prospect is telling you, “This is important to me!”
- Listen to what has not been said, especially if your prospect is negative. This is your opportunity to point out some positive reactions and statements. If it is during an objection-handling process, then your prospect may not always want to reveal the real reasons for objecting or disconnecting. Probe more deeply to discover what the real issue is and outweigh it.
- Practice listening during conversations. Use your friends, family, coworkers, or anyone you meet. Use these encounters as an opportunity to improve your listening skills in order to sharpen your ear.
Effective listening strengthens your understanding of your prospect’s needs and personal desires. Properly developed listening skills will enable you to determine what you should sell and how it relates to your prospect’s needs. You can overcome many possible objections that may never surface but nevertheless exist. Remember to put yourself in the prospect’s position. If you know that your needs are being met and that someone has a clear understanding of what those needs are, then you will be more receptive and willing to listen to their ideas!
Making Statements: When entering into the selling step of your presentation, be careful to avoid speaking in absolute statements or making claims that seem too good to be true. These are identified as overwhelming statements. Instead, preface your statements with reasonable qualifiers, such as:
“It seems to me that…”
“Many others have found…”
“Most of the time, this will…”
These types of statements will keep the lines of communication open, honest, and sincere between you and your prospect.
Lastly, follow these guidelines:
- Establish the prospect’s needs. Buyers don’t purchase products or services. They invest in what those products or services will do for them. This leads into the next point.
- Most people think about themselves a great deal of the time. A skilled salesperson will satisfy a prospect’s personal desires with successful sales techniques combined with effective listening.
With more effective telephone communication as part of your skill set, you’re ready to begin your journey on the road to more productive and profitable prospecting. Next month, I’ll cover the prospect’s three fears, and then we can dive into the twelve steps of successful telemarketing.
Kathy Sisk is president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.
[From Connection Magazine – May 2011]