Susan is in life insurance sales. She understands how to make cold calls, how to follow up on leads and referrals, and how to offer excellent customer service. Yet she’s amazed at how much more successful her colleague Michael is, when she puts much more time and sweat into her work than Michael seems to do. She wonders what is missing in her approach.
The key difference between Michael’s and Susan’s approaches is the fact that Michael has trained himself to be an active listener. He uses the active listening P.R.O.P.O.S.A.L. not only to help him maximize his sales deals but also to help him communicate more effectively with his wife and teenagers.
First, whenever you communicate with a prospective client or, for that matter, anyone, place yourself at eye level with that person. If they are sitting, you sit. Never place yourself above or below the eye level of the speaker.
Then, put to use the following components of the P.R.O.P.O.S.A.L –
Probe for understanding. Your job is to try to understand what your prospective client needs and how you can accommodate those needs. The only way to show the client you have exactly the product to satisfy those needs is to ask gentle questions about his or her goals and hopes in relation to your product. Say, for example, “If you could picture the ideal financial situation for your family when you are no longer around, please describe what you’d like to see happen.”
Reflect. The best way to understand your prospective client is to make sure you are listening carefully, and the best way to do that is to paraphrase what you heard him or her say before commenting on it. For example: “What I’m hearing is you want to make sure your children are well taken care of if you pass on within the next 15 years.”
One thing at a time. When you get onto a subject with your prospective client, stick to that topic. If he or she tells you something that sparks an idea for a different product, keep a notebook handy and jot down some notes. Just listen to what the prospective client is saying; don’t shuffle papers or start thinking about your response. Just listen to him or her.