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Sales Strategy
How Being a Good Listener Will Make You a Better Salesperson
Jan 19, 2018 | Canadian Professional Sales Association lock

For the vast majority of sales pros, talking is easy. Most of us naturally enjoy talking and conversing; it’s in our DNA. And since we’re under so much pressure to get results, it’s natural that we want to get right into our pitch on discovery calls and demos.

Unfortunately, a far better strategy - and one that’s far more difficult for many salespeople - is to listen. To let our prospect or client do the talking so that we can understand their problem and tailor our pitch to the solution they really need.

But simply aiming to listen is much trickier than it seems. Here we’ll explain how you can become a good listener and how it will make you a better salesperson.

Research shows that actually, only 10% of us are good listeners. The vast majority of conversations between two people consist of one person talking and the other person...well waiting to talk. For a sales pro, this is a big no-no. When you’re making a discovery call, it’s so important to actually discover important information about your prospect such as their business needs, what works for them, what doesn’t and how they like to be communicated with. If you’re not actively listening, then you are missing out on the important intel that these calls can give you to make the sale.

On a sales call or in a meeting, ideally you should be listening more than you talk. Practise talking for no longer than 20 seconds without asking a question. It takes some getting used to, but it will enable you to gather really important information that you can use to make the sale. Also, don’t rush in and fill every silence. If you do, you may be cutting off your customer before they make a big reveal; remember some people take a little longer than others to formulate their response. Let’s say you’ve just asked your prospect, “What’s the biggest issue facing your business right now?” - That’s a big question! So give them a moment to consider before you panic talk to fill the silence. Again, this takes a little practice, but by slowing down, you’ll give your prospect the space they need to really open up.

The types of questions you ask are important. Use open-ended, easy to understand questions. Avoid overly long-winded or complex ones which can be confusing and may require you to do even more talking to clarify. Additionally, make sure you have a large number of questions that you are prepared to ask. If you are hoping to do more listening than talking, you’ll need to have an abundance of good questions at your disposal. Take the time to really listen to what your prospects have to say: this will help you identify their problems (and find a solution) faster.

Being a good listener also means taking time to clarify and confirm your interpretation of an answer. Listening is all about decoding so be careful about the assumptions you make. Let’s say a prospect mentions that they’ve had a hard time picking a supplier because not everyone on the leadership team agrees that now is the right time to make a change.

Don’t assume that just because this person has taken your call that they are one of the pro-change side! Ask a follow-up question such as, “And where do you stand?” to confirm your assumptions are correct and then use follow-up questions to ascertain what’s holding the naysayers back. Misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions can send you down the wrong path when tailoring your pitch and really harm your chance of making a sale.

Start working on your listening skills today with your colleagues. Talk less and ask more questions and really take the time to hear the answers. The more you practice active-listening, the more second nature it will come. Once you’ve got it down, it will make you a far better salesperson as you’ll better understand your prospect's’ needs, will shorten your sales cycle and help you generate more money. 

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