April 13, 2021

Listening to Your Customers is Key to Success

By Paul Daniels

Listening is a key part of any sales call, as it helps keep your customers coming back. Often a salesperson will be so focused on their presentation that they do not take the time to really listen to what their customer is interested in. I have always believed that if you listen to your customers they will tell you what you need to focus on. More often than not, it is not the product you started out to sell. It may be price, lead time, quality, technical support, terms, or ease of installation. I was talking to a customer last week and their biggest concern was holding the price for a job that they needed more time to close and get all the contracts finalized. The customer was not going to place the order until they had all the contracts signed and what they needed to order confirmed.

A big part of listening is also asking questions. I always remember a sales tape I listened to years ago that stated: When you answer a statement with a statement, you are arguing with your customer. Too often I have been on sales calls when the salesperson falls into this trap. An example that happens often is when a customer responds with “your competitor has a better price” and the salesperson answers with “I can match that price.” Unknowingly, they are already arguing with their customer. A better way is to ask the customer a question, to clarify if price is the issue. By asking if price the only concern, if they say yes, then you are on the right track. If there are other issues, this will get your customer telling you what their real concerns are.

Another question I hear a lot lately, especially on custom products, is “What is your lead time?” Before you answer you need to find out what is important to the customer. Is a short lead time what they are looking for, or is it a confirmed delivery date so they can schedule their staff correctly? It is important to ask before jumping in with an answer. This will keep you from arguing.

The key is to listen to your customer. Ask questions to make sure you are understanding what they are saying and have the patience to let them explain what their needs are. They will always tell you what is important to them, if you’re listening.