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Sit Up Straight And Listen Or Just Get Up And Walk Out

What is the one question you must answer before a prospect agrees to schedule an appointment with you? Every prospect needs to know how they will benefit by taking time to meet with you.

Here’s a news flash: “Getting to know you better” is seldom seen as a benefit to prospects and neither is “Showing you the kind of work I do.” Before dialing the phone, you should always have an answer to this basic question: How could this prospect benefit by meeting with me? 

Consider this simple exercise to help hone your phone skills and set more appointments.

  1. Make a three-column list of the next five people you plan to call with names in the first column.
  2. In the second column, list your reason for calling the prospect now.
  3. In the third column, write at least one benefit you believe the prospect will realize from meeting with you.
  4. When you call the prospect, be sure to communicate this benefit before asking them to commit to meeting with you.

Listen Better. Sell More.

After you secure that all-important first meeting, make the most of it and increase your chances of closing the sale by listening more effectively to what your prospects are saying. It has been said that “Listening is not the same as hearing and in order to listen effectively you need to use more than just your ears.”

Many agree that effective listening is an important skill, although most people don’t feel a strong need to improve their own skill levels.
More than 8,000 people employed in businesses, hospitals, universities, the military and government agencies were asked if they found themselves communicating as effectively, or more effectively, than their coworkers. Nearly all responded positively. However, research shows that the average person listens at only about 25 percent efficiency. 

Experts in the field have marketed and capitalized on this knowledge to create the “10 Fastest Tips that Allow You to be an Effective Listener” and the “10 Principles of Listening.” But for those who have actively tried to make effective listening and the communication awareness and persuasion skills a core part of your business, you know that it is much deeper and more difficult than 10 simple steps.

So what can you do to become a more effective listener and grow your business? Start by listening with more than just your ears. For a good foundation, evaluate all aspects of listening and the concepts of how people communicate. According to Albert Mehrabian, a communications researcher, there are three basic elements of face-to-face communication:

  • 55 percent of communication is nonverbal such as body language.
  • 38 percent is verbal through tone — including pace and volume.
  • 7 percent of communication is done through words.

Listening with more than your ears requires that you learn how to read nonverbal cues and focus not only on what you want to say to a prospect, but how they are responding to your message. With this in mind, be aware of body language, including:

» Facial expressions. Frowning or raising of the brow line, blank stares, squinting eyes or frustration, as opposed to a simple smile and consistent eye contact.

» Posture. Changes in posture, such as leaning away, crossed arms or constant shifting in seat can convey a level of discomfort or indifference. Slouching can signify indifference and stiff or rigid posture can say “I don’t feel fully comfortable in your presence.” Meanwhile, an alert or erect posture with the head slightly forward and nodding, along with hands and arms that are relaxed and held at shoulder width or wider with the palms facing up can indicate interest and eagerness to engage in conversation.

» Eye contact. If a client or prospect is avoiding eye contact or constantly darting and shifting eyes off to blank space, this can signal a lack of interest, mistrust or insecurity. Angry and negative moods can cause a person’s pupils to contract. However, when a person is receptive to the conversation, their eyes will often dilate to three or four times their normal size. They frequently will raise their eyebrows slightly. If they like you and are interested in what you have to say, they will meet your gaze from 60 to 70 percent of the time.

When you can put all these tips and best practices together consistently, you will begin to convert more calls and build better relationships with clients. Remember, listen, be interested, be interesting and close by scheduling a follow-up meeting now. Seize the moment and you can capture more sales.

Take time to hone your listening skills

Here’s how you can become a better reader of body language and verbal cues. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each day to study the body language and verbal cues of others. You can do this in a variety of environments:

  • Business meetings.
  • Sales calls (especially when you are conducting joint appointments).
  • Social functions.
  • Restaurants or airports.
  • Try watching TV with the sound off or in a foreign language.

Dave Thesing is a partner at IFC National Marketing, an insurance marketing organization dedicated to supporting independent agents and financial advisors. Dave is also president of Bridgeway Learning Systems. Dave can be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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