5 Ways to Transform Silence into Gold When Engaging Prospective Buyers

Prospects don’t just want to be heard – they want to be understood. Here are five ways sales professionals can make listening pay off.

April 11, 2017

  • A Businesswoman Listens on the Phone While Taking Notes

Every sales professional knows the need to balance talking with listening when engaging prospects. But what is the right balance, exactly? Recent research makes a strong case for listening far more than you talk. It’s no wonder Willy Loman – the protagonist in Death of a Salesman – lamented his inability to talk less.

While you may feel you do listen to your prospects, are you truly hearing and understanding them? That’s exactly how your prospects should feel after interacting with you: understood. Here are five ways to convey the sense that you truly understand their concerns, priorities, and goals.

1. Be Prepared

It may seem counterintuitive to prepare to listen, but the more you can understand about your prospect ahead of time, the more quickly you can grasp their talking points and respond with intelligent questions. Before meeting with buyers, do your research to find out as much as you can about the situation at hand, the company’s strategic objectives, and who else might be part of the buying committee.

2. Ask Truly Open-Ended Questions

Many sales professionals have been trained to walk prospective buyers down the path to purchase by asking leading questions: questions that can only be answered with a response that points to your company or solution as the right choice. While it can be advantageous to prepare a strategic line of questioning, if it’s not done tactfully, this type of interrogation can come off as manipulative. Once trust is lost, so is the sale, so tread carefully when it comes to leading questions. 

By engaging the prospect in a natural conversation, you will have more to listen to and you can learn more in the process. Focus on being a conversationalist. Ask questions that allow your prospect to talk for minutes on end, such as “Interesting, how does that process work?” This way, your prospect feels more at ease and more in control, making it easier for you to build rapport.  

3. Help Don’t Sell

It’s been well documented that today’s B2B buyers want sales reps to provide insights and guidance that helps ease the purchase process. Remember, even though today’s buyers can find tons of information online, they don’t always know how to make sense of it all. In fact, they often feel more overwhelmed than empowered.

By actively listening, you put yourself in position to truly teach the prospect something relevant. Your recommendations become more meaningful because they are based on what you’ve learned, as opposed to assumptions. Knowledge-based advice goes a long way toward earning trust and puts you in position to make the short list.

4. Get Personal

No one feels special when they get a canned response. Another reason to do your research and actively listen is so that you can tailor your replies and the information you share for each prospective buyer. By personalizing your sales approach, you demonstrate a grasp of the individual’s – or buying committee’s – situation. As Theodore Roosevelt said, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Personalized messages show people you care.

5. Tell Stories

Your prospects want to be the hero of their own story. If you can paint a picture that features them in the hero role, they are more likely to feel that you understand their goals and motivations.

By listening intently to prospective buyers, you can zero in on the stories in your toolkit (think existing case studies) that are most relevant and compelling. Then you can tell a gripping, memorable story that captivates your audience and motivates them to take action.

A lot has changed in selling, but attentive listening never goes out of style. When your prospects speak, don’t just wait for your turn to talk, or ask the next question on your list. Actively listen and take a genuine interest in what is being said. Shoot for thoughtful questions and considerate responses that are guided by the conversation more so than your agenda.  

For more ways to make your prospects feel special, check out our eBook, How Personalized Selling Unlocks Competitive Advantage.