Listen Up

By Cindy Waxer

A lack-luster sales pitch is no way to win business, but according to Lou Hampton, president of The Hampton Group, a Washington, D.C. firm that specializes in crisis communications, there are three simple strategies you can use to whip your pitch into shape.

1. Do research prior to meeting with your client.
Visit your customer’s Website and read online business and trade publications in order to learn all you can about your client’s industry. Learn about new regulations that may impact your client’s business, identify what your customer’s competition is doing, and become proficient with any industry jargon so you can carry on a conversation using your client’s terminology. While you should still allow the customer to do the majority of the talking, make sure that every word you utter is well informed and relevant.

2. Listen for mystery words.
Mystery words are words that don’t have a clearly defined meaning. Good, positive, inexpensive – are all open to significant and different interpretations. Whenever you hear an ambiguous word, ask the client to clarify the precise meaning. If you’re astute enough to listen for these mystery words, you can overcome nearly every challenge related to the sale. When your customers can explain what they mean using specific terms, you can break each point down and respond accordingly. Successful salespeople listen for each and every mystery word, and go through them all to understand precisely what the client wants.

3. Give your customers a summary of what you’ve heard.
After hearing your customers’ concerns, give them a summary by repeating back what you heard. By doing this, you assure your clients that the solution they’re getting is going to be designed specifically for them. What truly sets you apart from the masses is your ability to listen and then prove you’re listening by recapping the conversation.