We usually consider that there are three goals in the art of good conversation:
The first is purely and simply, for the pleasure of expressing yourself and interacting with other people.
The second goal is connected with getting to know the person in front of us better. In sales and in any kind of business, a longer exposition to the other person is necessary in order to be able to understand, how the other person thinks, feels or reacts.
The third goal in the art of conversation is to construct credibility between the two parties in the sales process.
This is maybe one of the most important things we have to learn to become better salespeople.
If in the field of personal relationships, this is critical, in the field of selling it is important for a business relationship that serves the best interests of both parties.
If you think about it, does anyone buy from a person they don’t trust?
Many people, think that the art of conversation is just talking in an interesting and impassioned way, so that we are noted for our humor, ability to tell stories or our understanding of different subjects.
It is common to think that if we want to be better conversationists, we should enhance our ability to speak or to articulate issues.
In fact, as far as we are aware, nothing is further away from the reality than this fact.
As we have often heard, we come into this world with two ears and one mouth.
Could this indicate to us that we must listen to twice as much as we speak?
Of course it does!
In a conversation, it is more important to listen carefully, than to talk in an elaborated or passionate way about something.
Psychologically, it is also the best way to give our client importance. By listening actively, we are reinforcing our relationship while at the same time giving the client the feeling of importance we place on him.
The art of good conversation focuses largely on our capacity to ask questions and listen attentively to our client’s responses.
We can introduce ideas and personal views into a conversation, but in order to talk well, we need to pose well thought-out questions that allow us to direct the conversation flow where we want and, simultaneously, give our client the chance to express himself.
We should ask open-ended questions ( which cannot be answered by yes or no) which encourage the client to express his or her opinions and remarks on the matter at hand.
We can ask open-ended questions almost indefinitely that allow us to find out what the client thinks about the matter in question.
Anyone who aspires to be a great conversationalist should above all resist the desire to dominate the conversation.
The best conversationalists are usually calm, easygoing, good-natured people genuinely interested in the person they are talking to.
They are people who are happy to listen and contribute to the conversation without monopolizing it and breaking the flow of conversation.
Listening is indeed among the most important resources in selling.
If you think of many of the sellers we know, are they very good listeners?
Let’s talk about the four basic rules for active listening.
These rules work in any situation, whether it’s talking to a client, colleague, manager, family member or friend. They are psychologically and practically tested techniques that increase the impact on the other person in an exponential way.
The first rule for listening actively is to listen attentively without interruptions. When we listen to a person, we are communicating to them in a sub-conscious way, that we appreciate what they are saying.
The biggest problem for most people to be bad listeners is that while they’ re listening, they’re at the same time preparing the answer or the next sentences they’re going to say. They resemble two fighters waiting for the other person to let their guard down so that they can jump forward with the answer they have been working on and take over again.
Listening very carefully requires that you lean slightly towards the other person and listen carefully to each word. It is necessary to be able to listen as if there is nothing more captivating in the world than what the person is saying.
The best conversationists develop the ability to make the other person feel unique, as if they are the only person in the world. Good conversationists can even do this in a room filled with people.
Additionally we should also indicate that we are listening through body signals, nodding, smiling and agreeing with what the client is saying. We have to become active instead of passive. We need to indicate that we are totally immersed in the conversation.
We must also make eye contact with our client. Only each one of us, personally, will be able to know whether or not we really did this. Nevertheless, for the customer the general feeling is that we have all our energy focused on him and on what he is saying.
The second rule we must adopt is to take a break before responding. The break will be brief, between three to five seconds. When we take a pause before responding we accomplish three goals at the same time.
First, we prevent taking the risk of interrupting the client if he is only catching his breath before proceeding.
Second, we are showing the client that we are giving the utmost regard to what he is saying, because we are not jumping back into the conversation at the first chance.
Third, by making the pauses we get the benefit of being able to listen better to the customer. His words will be absorbed more easily into your mind and we will be able to understand more clearly exactly what you are telling us.
Pauses are indeed the distinguishing factor from any great talker. If you do not believe it, choose a person you enjoy chatting with and check “in loco” if this really happens.
The third rule of active listening is to use questioning to clarify what the client is telling you. We must never assume that we understand at the first time what the client is telling us. Rather, we should seek to clarify our own understanding of the issue.
For instance, we might ask “If I may, just to be on the same page, what exactly do you want to mean by that?” This is one of the more powerful issues we can use to control a conversation. It is almost inevitable that we will not answer this question.
When we ask ” What do you mean… ?” the customer often has the tendency to answer by adding other valuable information to the sales process.
The fourth rule is paraphrasing our customer’s words using our own words. For example: “Let me see if I understood your problem correctly. What you are telling me is…”. By paraphrasing our customer, we demonstrate in a clear way that we are actually paying attention and that we have the correct understanding of their problem.
The reason “listening” is such a powerful tool in selling is that listening develops trust. The more you listen, the more the client trusts and believes in you. It has been proven psychologically that by hearing we are even naturally increasing the other person’s self respect in a subconscious way.
Finally, listening obliges us to develop our inner discipline in selling.
Our mind handles 500 to 600 words per minute, yet we can only talk about 150 words a minute.
Because of this, listening is actively and totally focussed on the other person and what they are saying is absolutely exhausting.
If we don’t practice this listening discipline, our mind will drift in a hundred different ways at once during the process of selling.
Therefore, at all the opportunities we have, we should practise it.
Don’t you forget: When it came to talking… ” Practice makes perfection”!
Also published on Medium.