Stop, Look and Listen

Listen and learn

"I'm listening" may be the catch phrase for fictional TV psychiatrist Frasier Crane, but it should also be the mantra of every successful entrepreneur. Listening is the single most important component of any interaction with a prospect or customer.

An effective sales meeting or call has two components: asking questions and listening to the answers. If you do both well, you'll build trust and rapport. By asking the right questions, you uncover your prospect's needs and find out what he or she really wants. Listen for facts, feelings, beliefs and desires so you can respond and frame your next questions appropriately.

Instead of thinking about your one-on-one meeting or call to a prospect as a "pitch," practice consultative selling. That's when you uncover and fill needs in a friendly, noncombative and supportive way. Your meeting shouldn't focus on "What I offer"; it should be about "What you get."

Begin your conversation with an opening benefit that underscores the reason your prospect is meeting or speaking with you. Then, it's a matter of asking good closed- and open-ended questions that help you understand your prospect's needs and expectations. It's a sure sign your meeting's going well if your prospect is doing most of the talking.

Before your next meeting or sales call, plan what types of questions you'll ask. Closed-ended questions are great conversation-starters. These may be answered with a fact, a yes or a no. Open-ended questions elicit answers that reveal a prospect's emotions.

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Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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