Are you REALLY listening to your clients, or just waiting to speak? After all, you are going to be valued as an adviser for your knowledge and expertise in your specialist area of professional services? Yes…but no! Are you being curious about your potential client’s issues or are you just pushing your services at them in the way you have always done? Curiosity may have killed the cat (!) but it is vital when selling professional services and that means you have to listen to what is being said and also what is not being said. This requires you to shut up and concentrate on the other person.
We researched what are the success factors that sell professional services by asking partners and senior fee earners to rate 17 different points. Listening effectively was rated the second most important factor after building relationships based on trust over time. We widened the definition to: Puts aside distractions, really listens with curiosity and demonstrates genuine interest in the issues without making assumptions or rushing to provide answers. Too often people selling professional services focus on the ‘selling’ and not on the ‘buying’; to do this effectively means getting into the world of your buyers through listening.
We live in an increasingly fast-paced and invasive business environment where the volume of distractions are high. As you read this blog, just notice the amount of thoughts going through your mind, the email or social media message ‘pings’ and the volume of noise interferences such as open plan offices. Concentrating to listen is hard work, but it could mean the difference between winning or losing a potential piece of client work. When did you last get feedback on your listening techniques? How would you rate your listening skills?
Take time to truly listen
Successful sellers of professional services do not rush to ‘solve’ clients issues based on assumptive information, they will take time to truly listen without feeling the need to present credentials or services. They build an understanding of the client’s needs and also their desire to buy. Through listening effectively they are able to ask quality questions which help assess the likelihood of the client hiring them. Failing to listen effectively may not only lose the potential work, but it could also destroy the client relationship.
Listening will help you demonstrate that you care about your client and their issues. Next time you are on the phone or in a meeting, ask yourself ‘Am I REALLY listening?’ You may find the following resources valuable about listening when selling professional services:
- Success Factors when Selling Professional Services – Check out the other 16 success factors we discovered and their importance: http://jaconsulting.co.uk/success-factors
- Steps to Relationship Heaven – This article covers the three steps to Relationship Heaven and the second stage stresses the value of listening: http://davidtovey.com/three-steps-to-relationship-heaven/
- Active Listening – This article focuses on ways to actively listen: https://www.allbusiness.com/active-listening-is-an-essential-sales-tool-34251-1.html
- Why Listening is Hard – A video clip focusing on why listening in sales is hard to do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpxteBi1K58