By Cheryl Gregory
Listening is the most important element when connecting with people. When your customer believes that you not only hear, but understand them, they begin to consider you a trusted professional vs. someone who is just in it for the sale.
Here are five powerful tips to help you listen and connect more effectively with clients (especially points three to five):
- 1. Ask questions. Tossing out a never-ending list of suggestions that elicit “Yes” and “No” responses makes it difficult for you to establish needs. Ask open-ended questions with the goal of getting clients to talk. Remember to ask who, what, when, where and why as well as, “tell me more,” “can you expand on that?” and “what else?”
After they start talking …
- 2. Be quiet. I know it is challenging for enthusiastic travel agents to do this, but you must resist the temptation to interrupt or finish sentences for them. If your client gives short answers, use more open-ended questions like, “tell me about the best vacation you ever had,” and “what did you like best about it?” or “was there anything you didn’t like, or would have changed?” to help you dig deeper.
As they speak …
- 3. Listen b-e-t-w-e-e-n the words. Don’t just hear the words, but try to identify their feelings as they speak. Empathy allows you to walk in their shoes.
Watch their body language and facial expressions. If they show signs of excitement, make note of it. Maybe it is an activity, like windsurfing, or something else that excites them.
Nod your head once in awhile to indicate you understand. Tilt your head slightly to one side as they speak. Subconsciously, it indicates to them you are listening with interest.
- 4. Acknowledge. Once they have finished speaking, ask if it’s OK to repeat back to them what you understand is important, so you can be sure you have everything they need. They will feel respected.
Next, ask if you got everything; add anything you may have missed.
Then you go for …
- 5. “The pick up line” (no, it’s not what you think). It is a term I use to describe the next tip for digging deeper into their needs:
Clarify and confirm all the things you talked about. You “pick up” a generic word they may have used and ask them to elaborate on what they mean.
Examples are phrases like, “nice beach,” “good food,” and the ever-popular, “I want to have fun.” Get them to explain their ideal vision of these generic terms. Now, you will understand clearly what they really want (emotional) vs. what they say they want.
Once you are crystal clear on what they want, it makes finding two to three ideal options for them easier for you.
Acknowledge the signs of enthusiasm you noted earlier. Offer a comment such as “judging from your excitement, it looks like windsurfing is high on your list. Am I right?”
Gain their agreement on these areas (or clarify further) to really show you are paying attention to them. See if you can draw out more activities that excite them as much and add them to your research list.
After you “picked up” the generic terms and body language, and established their importance, you repeat the following step:
- Reiterate the list again, but this time, use the specific things important to them, using their words/phrases. They will strongly connect with you, because they hear their own words, and people naturally gravitate to other people who are similar to them.
Ask “Have I covered everything?” or “Is there anything else I should be checking out for you?” This confirms everything you need to find two-three options for their ideal vacation. If they think of something later, you can always add it.
Present your options and tie them to the emotional words and phrases you used in the last step. It will sound exactly like what they want.
Adapting these five simple qualifying skills into your daily conversations will make a difference in your business. Clients feel respected because you listen to them. They believe you understand them, so they trust you and want to work with you. They see you as a true professional, because you offer options that meet their (emotional) needs exactly, and that is what motivates people to buy.