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Active listening in customer dialogue – Shut up and listen … until it hurts

There are two words that excellent sales staff as well as customer support employees know: SHUT UP!
Customer support and sales are remarkably similar in this regard. When confronted with a potential customer or a customer who has a problem, employees start with their "talk mode", offer help and usually try to avoid the unpleasant silence. Sales people do this as well - they get it all out, hoping that shotgun approach will work.
This article shows you how different energetically balanced, marvelous sales and customer service dialogues (and even beyond that) can go differently.

Talking shares in customer dialogues on the phone

We are currently listening to a large number of customer dialogues and recognize as the status quo that, on average, the sales and customer support employees use around 65-75% of the telephone call time. In proportion, so little time for the customer remains to speak for themselves.
Hubspot, in its article „7 Things the Best Sales Calls Have in Common” found out, based on more than 25,000 phone calls, that the best-converting voice shares in customer phone calls should be more for the customer, even at a distribution of about 57:43 percent.

Cross your heart

How often did you have a conversation with a person (live or on the phone) and after a few seconds you could not remember the name of your correspondent?

Hearing and Listening

The management consultancy McKinsey calls it the „Moment of Truth“, the spark that has to jump over to the customer at one point. This includes the operative listening of the employee, but also the "listening" of the whole company.
 

Ein angrenzendes Beispiel aus der Beziehungswelt

If you enter "men do not listen" or "women do not listen" into Google or another Search engine, then you get in the first case about 895 million entries, in the second case almost 761 million entries. Obviously a challenge, even a problem, not only in dealing with the customer.

The Solution: Aktive Listening

Active listening is not only applicable to sales and customer success. In addition, it is not a new trend or the like at all. Dr. Carl Rogers, one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research, developed the concept of "reflected listening" in the 1940s. Some Rogers' students have evolved the method over time and then called it "active listening".

Active listening in four steps:

  1. Really listen to your customer (or prospect)
  2. Return the content and the feeling of the (potential) customer's words
  3. Make sure you have heard and understood the customer correctly
  4. Ask a relevant follow-up question to further clarify your understanding of the customer's situation


1. Really listen to your customer (or prospect)

Sales reps or customer support staff are often too busy to really listen. Even when properly prepared, they often just listen to a specific word ("problem" or "challenge") that indicates whether the prospect might need the product or service.
This type of listening can make a big difference by encouraging (potential) customers to open up more and to trust and engage.

2. Return the content and the feeling of the (potential) customer's words

The goal of this step is to convey your understanding. You best appreciate what's going on with your conversation partner.
  • Repeat what you heard literally. This is the easiest way because the prospect hears exactly what he just said and either confirms his meaning or clarifies his message. Caution: Do not use too often
  • Paraphrase what you have heard. It is better than just repeating it if you bring the words of your customer into your words. By doing so you give the other person to understand that his words have really arrived with you. Caution: Pay attention to the details and do not leave them.

3. Make sure you have heard and understood the customer correctly

To keep the dialogue going, of course, it is best to replay the repetition or rewrite with a question in the form "Do you think I understood you correctly?". If a "No" comes now, then the customer has the possibility to express himself again or in more detail.

4. Ask a relevant follow-up question to further clarify your understanding of the customer's situation

If you are so far in the understanding that the (potential) customer also confirms that, it is important to ask a pertinent follow-up question. It's best to use the open questions instead of closed questions that can be answered directly with yes or no.

Learning by doing: 7 ways to become an effective active listener

1. Encourage yourself to allow conversation breaks. What is difficult for others (as you may have been for yourself) becomes a very powerful tool. Practice talking to friends and family, simply "enduring" the empty linguistic spaces.

2. Even if it still bothers you so much, do not interrupt your conversation partner while he speaks. As you probably already taught as a child, this makes sense just in conversation with customers, not to speak to the opposite.

3. Focus on what the customer is saying (or trying to say) instead of dealing with the sale. This shows that you have a genuine interest in helping, not just yourself..

4. Be sure to give your customer the feeling of being heard. This goes beyond simple listening. Write down comments or questions in your own words so that you not only hear them, but understand them. As soon as you put that back into the conversation, it might sound like this:

  • "As I understand, what you want to say is ..."
  • "What I hear is ..."
  • "Help me to understand ..."
  • "Tell me more about..."

5. Listen to what is not said, between the lines. The behavior of your counterpart, or even what is implied, is often more important than what is said verbally. If your counterpart gets involved in contradictions, then that is a point where you should dig deeper for more understanding.

6. Resist the temptation directly to contradict. Listen to the whole context before you judge too quickly and want to impose another, namely your position, on your counterpart. Resist the temptation directly to contradict. Listen to the whole context before you judge too quickly and want to impose another, namely your position, on your counterpart.

7. Listen to what's behind the factual information. Behind the mostly quite sober information can hide important additional content that you should pay attention to. These are:

  • Pay attention to the concerns or what is important to the customer
  • Pay attention to what the customer appreciates.
  • Pay attention to what the customer lacks.
  • Pay attention to what the customer lacks between the now and the desired state


Let's go

If you make the customer feel that he is "leading" the conversation, with the few words you speak will be more effective and generate far more resonance with your customer.

Now you feel like talking? The comments are a great place for it.
André Wehr
André Wehr
Customer communication on the phone is an essential part of generating customer-focused traction for Your business. Especially when scalable, customer dialog on the phone is a game changer.

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