Active listening and hearing someone talk are two very different things. There are two types of listeners: a listener who intends to speak, and the active listener who intends to understand. In professional settings, and most definitely in dealerships, active listening is required.
The automotive business is relationship driven. To acquire sales, people must like and trust you. Being an active listener is something I have been working on for a long time, and a method that I train sales and F&I representatives to strive for and achieve. Being able to focus on what the customer is saying is key to winning their business. You can sell more by overcoming objections and providing real solutions.
If your team is launching into the sales pitch or finance presentation without giving it their full attention and listening, they run the risk of selling instead of solving, pressuring a prospective customer into something that doesn’t solve their real need. The customer will feel tension, pressured, and it will likely be wasted time and effort for everyone involved. It’s okay to have pauses and give customers time to think. Your staff should be confident, but salespersons also need to be empathetic and let customers feel they understand these are important decisions.
SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND THAN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
For successful active listening to occur, the following is needed:
- Reading the room, making direct eye contact, and giving it your full attention.
- Watch your body language, adopting a posture that welcomes discussion, leaning in as you listen, smile, with no crossed arms or legs.
- Pay attention to your customer’s body language, realize changes that put them more at ease.
- Don’t interrupt, no matter what comes into your head, listen carefully, nodding and maintaining eye contact, until they have gotten it all out on the table.
- No distractions, no picking up a phone call or checking a text or looking at your watch.
- Take notes indicating it’s your intent to get the details right.
- Ask questions for clarification and avoid tacking on the sales pitch when asking questions.
- Repeat back what you have heard and then confirm agreement on it.
- Provide a summarization that defines your solution and appropriate sales pitch.
Following these best practices will enable even the most ardent salesperson who likes to jump right into a conversation apply the brakes and begin working towards becoming a great active listener.
TIPS FOR BUILDING TRUST
In training your staff, let them know they can build trust by demonstrating concern and interest by asking questions: “How can I help?” or “Let’s take your needs into consideration.” Asking questions shows December 2022
that you care. Waiting until they have finished speaking is very important, as well as not letting interruptions take your focus or concentration away from their time to talk. All of this will speak volumes towards the appreciation of them as customers.
Eye contact is a great way to get grounded and initiate active listening. It’s a sign of respect, confidence, and demonstrates that you are engaged, interested, and want to learn more. It’s important to work on making and maintaining eye contact.
AFFIRMATIONS GO A LONG WAY
Paraphrasing what you have heard will help you stay aligned with your customers, remember details, and show that you are truly listening. Providing them with additional affirmations where you relay that you know their time is valuable and that you appreciate their candor will help you build rapport that leads to customer loyalty.
BE THE PROBLEM SOLVER
Listening is the top sales skill for success. Actively listening will help you in your efforts to be understanding of their needs. Everything your customer says will help you move closer to a purchase. It’s not a matter of how long you listen, it’s important to understand how well you listened.
When a salesperson engages through active listening techniques, the prospect will feel heard, valued, and respected. Be in the moment because customers are the priority. Further, they will offer fewer objections if the focus is based on their needs rather than the need to make a sale. An actively listening salesperson will gain a good reputation for understanding customers. Yet another benefit is the sales process, closing, and delivery should run smoothly and be easier all around in the end.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Cintron is president of Profit Strategies, a Vanguard Dealer Services Company.