Six Ways to Encourage Your Customer to Keep Talking

Selling Skills | Building Relationships

Early in the sales process, typically during discovery, it’s critical to learn as much about your customer’s issues, concerns, problems, and desires as possible. The better you understand your customer, the more effectively you’ll be able to position your solution as a way of addressing their needs.

But often, during a discovery call, customers are reluctant to share information, or they give incomplete answers to your questions. When that happens:

  1. Use nonverbal cues. Simple actions such as nodding, smiling, or maintaining good eye contact send an important message to the customer: “I understand what you are saying, and it is OK for you to continue giving me information.”
  2. Use verbal cues. Common phrases like “Uh-huh,” “Go on,” and “I see” help you connect with your customer. They help you communicate that “I understand what you are saying, and I invite you to tell me more.”
  3. Ask questions (and listen to the answers). Asking thoughtful follow-up questions demonstrates to the customer that you are listening and also offers a natural prompt to provide you with more information. Examples include: “What does that mean?” “How did that happen?” and “Tell me more about that problem.” Remember, wait until the buyer has finished a thought or wait for a logical pause before asking another question. That way, you won’t interrupt his or her train of thought. And don’t ask questions that you can research and answer in advance.
  4. Make a statement, and then pause. “I am not sure I understand. Could you tell me more?” Then be sure to wait for a response.
  5. Paraphrase. By expressing the customer’s meaning using different words, you achieve greater clarity. Sentences like “If I understand this correctly, you are concerned about …” help the buyer feel that you understood what they said. That demonstrates that you care – and it will invite them to be open and share more information with you. This is very powerful because it sends a message to the buyer that “Wow! Finally, I found someone who understands me!”
  6. Use silence. This is the most powerful technique of them all, yet it’s the hardest for most salespeople to use. When there’s a moment of silence in a conversation, it creates awkwardness. It’s human nature to want to eliminate that awkwardness by talking, but don’t fall into that trap! Let your customer go first. Great salespeople skillfully use silence to encourage their customers to talk more.

The more your customer talks, the better your understanding will be of their situation. Having a better understanding of the customer will help you develop more relevant insights and ultimately strengthen your sales presentation later in the sales cycle.

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About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.