Remember being a kid and playing the telephone game. You had to tell the person next to you a statement, and they in turn tell what they heard to the person next to them and so on. And by the time the last person repeats it we all laugh at how convoluted the statement had become? That’s because our brains can only recall seven words in a row correctly. That’s why telephone numbers were only seven characters! So think about a typical conversation. During a proper needs assessment a woman can typically use 200 words or more to describe what she wants, her past experiences, her preferences, etc.
This is a listening wake-up call! Remember that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We need to not only do twice as much listening, we also need to use language to communicate what a great listener we are. And women love a great listener.
If you know you are not the best listener, and even if you believe you are, there are a few ways to prepare yourself to be a better listener, and make your customers believe you are genuinely interested in what they are saying, which you are.
When a woman says nobody listens to her, what she means is she doesn’t feel heard. She doesn’t feel understood. Style differences can be so major that many men tell me they struggle to stay with women when they talk. She veers off topic and his mind wanders or he just doesn’t get where she’s going.
If you’re not listening to a woman customer it’s probably because 1.) You assume you already understand her requirements so you can block out what she’s saying or 2.) You’re focused on your own agenda, which pulls you away and makes it tough to follow her thoughts.
Whatever the reason, women tend to have finer-tuned social perceptions than men, so they usually notice if you’re moving away or have logged off. And that will often lead to frustration and doubts about your ability to meet her needs.
The upside is that the fix is fairly easy. Don’t interrupt. Don’t “mind read” her needs. Don’t try to solve all her problems. Just stay calm and let her lead the conversation. Refocus on whatever it is that she is saying. Your job is to be ready, willing and able to adjust your footing to hear her out. You’ll be very glad you did, because when a woman believes you are there, that you really hear her, you might just get her business for life—and that of her friends and family, too.
Think feelings. A woman’s feelings are often part of her thoughts. She’s not as compartmentalized as your average man—and that’s a crucial linkage. Listen for feeling words, emotional states, loaded terms—stranded, furious, disappointment, confusing or scam. These are the signposts that tell you where she is coming from—and where you should go.
Think relationships. She does. Get onto her wavelength with that. Don’t try to impress her with facts and figures—on their own, out of context, this line will probably backfire. Relate your product or service to the people in her life. (You’ve been listening, so you know who they are.) That will help her really see their value.
Think context. Sure, you’re selling products and services for what she needs to get done. But to seal the deal, sell to what she needs to make her life better. If you can speak to her life, sell to be a positive part of it, she’ll probably buy from you again and again.
Showing her you’re listening. Men especially like to do things. Well, there are things a salesperson can do to blow the sale—like talk too much, talk too soon, try to fix things, push too hard—and things he or she can do to bring in her business for life. First thing to do with women customers: Do whatever you can to make her feel heard. Even the perception that you’re listening is a start.
I call it responsive listening. This is what a woman will do with another woman to say, “I’m there,” “I’m with you.” And it’s great for men especially because it gives them something to do while listening—to keep them from doing the wrong things they might want to do like interrupt or jump the gun to the solution before she’s finished explaining the situation.
It’s easy. And it works. For openers, use simple supportive gestures—like smiling or nodding every once in awhile. This tells her you are there with her, taking time and taking it in. And it sends a second crucial message: approval. Research shows approving gestures help everyone open up, but they’re big winners with women because what they are up against in this world makes them more often crave reassurance anyway.
Another no-sweat step that delivers stellar returns: paraphrasing. Some people may think it’s just restating the obvious—what could be more obvious than what she just said? But women feel reassured and supported when they know you are really listening, and paraphrasing is an easy way to prove it to them. And, restating the main points helps you make sure you are really getting the picture.
I also recommend that when selling to a woman, you adopt a simple procedure. When you think she’s stopped talking, silently count down from four, to give her a chance to resume. Whether she was just pausing or not, she will consider you to be a good listener and not a bad interrupter, if you just give yourself a few moments of silence. It works. You’ll see the difference if you use it regularly.
Good listening is the behavior habit we need to make part of our everyday communication process.