Telesales Training - What's the Definition of Active Listening?

By Jeremy Blake on January 25, 2016

If you started in telesales in the 80’s or 90’s, or even the early noughties, you were likely to have been on an induction programme that told you about the importance of Listening. If you were aged between 19 and 25 it is likely the concept of listening seemed important but you never really knew what the trainer was going on about, especially if they didn’t use analogies.

Here’s a number of tips wrapped in short real examples of people I have worked with or trained, who have their own particular methods of making active listening work for them.

The Barking Dog – The top telesales chap at a certain insurance firm we trained nine years ago was an expert at hearing the environment the caller was in. I remember sitting with Michael one morning and he asked, “What kind of dog have you got?” the reply came, “How do you know I have a dog?!” “I heard you whisper good boy and shut a door right at the start of the call. I imagine you were letting your dog out so we could speak more easily?” he went on to add pet insurance to the travel insurance enquiry

A Glass of water – Debbie Forbes-Evans a superstar telesales colleague of mine while we were at Yellow Pages together was often asking her customers if they’d like a glass of water. Think about that. Offering your prospect a drink over the phone, that they then get themselves. She could tell that these people were having a long phone call and could do with some vocal hydration. This played no small part in her being a consistent top performer.

The Exact Words Repeated – My favourite part of telesales training is training people to handle telesales objections. Most people like to give their objection in their own language. My biggest success with this practice of repeating the exact words a customer used in an objection came when selling advertising into theatre programmes for John Good. When I repeated the customer’s objection, which was his way of asking for a discount: “You’d like me to plane a bit off the top end?” he burst into laughter and paid the full asking price.

Paraphrase to Simplify – Justin, one of the top finance sales managers for a major car dealership organisation, has to manage his car finance telesales people using his own form of telesales. He has to simplify their challenges and opportunities and unravel them. When members of the team give him long winded explanations, or just can’t find the language, they need to say what they feel he helps. “So you want me to make the numbers crystal clear and give you a couple of phrases to introduce the concept in an exciting way?” “Yes!” they cry.

Aha is a Norwegian Band –As your client can’t see you while you are engaging in a telesales conversation, you must let your client know that you are listening. Too much ‘aha ing and umm umm ing’ can make you sound like you know what they are about to say, and that you have heard it all before. When you are really fully listening to what someone is saying, you are not waiting for them to finish – you are trying to understand what they are thinking and feeling through their use of language and how they sound.

The old 70’s sitcom joke of a woman on the phone chattering away who says repeatedly, “You don’t say, really, you don’t say, golly no, you don’t say!”; to be met with the husband’s question of “well what did she say?” and she replies “he didn’t say”; shows that she was there for her friend and helping her by listening even if she didn’t get all of the facts!

I have walked through many contact centres and sat in many service centres, call centres and telesales offices and seen and heard people pretending to listen.
Active listening always accelerates your telesales success.

In your role as a coach, manager or telesales leader you must enable your people to become the best active listeners they can possibly be.