Do you truly listen to your customers?

Could you do better?

The reason I ask is because it seems that listening is a skill that is emphasized as important, but unfortunately is not actually put into practice — at least to the extent it could be.

And if you aren’t really listening to your customer, you could miss vital information that not only will affect your sales success, but more importantly will affect your relationship with that customer.

Let me give you an example that seems subtle on the surface, but is profound.

One word can make all the difference.

Not long ago, I was doing some consulting work for a pharmaceutical company.  In an effort to understand this particular client’s business, I shadowed one of their sales representatives for a day.

As she and I were visiting various doctors’ offices, there is one particular encounter that sticks out to me.

As we went into the office, the sales representative asked if a certain doctor was available.

The receptionist’s answer?

She said, “He is not here. He is in the hospital.”

Without even skipping a beat, the representative jumped in asking when the doctor would be back in the office and would it be okay if we stopped by later that afternoon.

With a somber look on her face, the receptionist said, “No. He had a stroke last night and his condition is not good.”

Did you catch the word that the representative missed in the initial encounter with the receptionist?

The receptionist said the doctor was in the hospital, not at the hospital.

A doctor who is simply making rounds is “at” the hospital, which is what the sales representative assumed, even though the receptionist clearly said “in.”

Granted, this is an extreme example.

But it is ideal to make a point that as a sales representative, you always need to be listening with keen discernment.

The very best salespeople are consistently paying close attention to not only what each customer says, but how this information creates a bigger picture of what is going on with that customer, their needs, and so forth.

One word can make all the difference, as can the tone of the customer’s voice or the context of when something is said.

Key is to listen, ask good follow up questions and keep thorough notes on each meeting you have with a customer.

Your sales career and your customer relationships deserve this sort of attention.

Copyright 2012, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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