Listen more to sell more. It’s a premise that sounds so simple. And most salespeople will tell you they’re really good listeners. But I’ve sat in on a great number of calls in my sales training, and I know that’s not actually the case.
So let me walk you through the sales call and show you how to listen more to sell more. Here are 10 key ideas and tips to help you listen better and get strong sales results.
1. Experts report that 80% of critical sales information is heard, not spoken.
Keep this in mind. If you want to be a great listener, be mindful not to talk 80% of the time in a conversation with your prospect or client. The real opportunity lies in listening.
2. Active listening is extremely helpful in building rapport.
Active listening is about paying attention. It’s about taking notes and repeating things that make sense back to people so they know you’re listening.
You would be surprised at the number of times I hear people say, “Ryan, I don’t like to take notes because it’s distracting.” Okay, so take note of the major things, and then occasionally stop to think back, after listening actively, and summarize with the important things that were said.
For example, you might say, “Mr. Jones, as I’m taking a few notes here, I want to make sure I don’t miss out on some things you say that are really important.” Then you can say, “What I’ve heard you say is 1, 2, 3. I’ve got some great ways to help you with that.”
3. To prove you’re listening, repeat back — but paraphrase.
Active listening involves repeating back to people what you’ve heard, but it’s important to paraphrase it. Don’t just read it back to them word for word, because that’s annoying. Paraphrase it.
4. Listen for adjectives that your client is using, and then use them yourself.
When I sit down with a sales client who’s saying, “I’m looking for wise ideas,” or “I’m trying to be very marketing-savvy,” or “I’m looking for things that are really unique,” I write down the words “wise,” “savvy” and “unique.”
So whether I’m talking back to the person on the phone, in person or on Zoom, I use words that resonate with them, like “savvy” and “wise.” So I might say back to them, “I think this will be a very wise solution, Mr. Jones,” and “I think this will be a savvy solution for you.”
The idea is to listen for the adjectives that are meaningful to your prospects and then use those adjectives back.
One word of caution, though: Be careful to steer clear of words that get over-used, like “awesome.”
5. Listen for tempo and mimic it.
Listen for the tempo of your client, and then mimic that tempo. So if you’re a person who talks fast, like me, and you’re dealing with somebody that talks quite slowly, make sure you’re listening for their tempo — and then mirror that tempo to the best of your ability.
6. Listen for volume and mimic it.
If your client is a quiet talker, you need to mirror their volume, as well. If they’re a loud talker, mirror that. But keep in mind that there’s nothing harder than listening to a person who’s talking really fast and then they’re at volume 10. So as a listener, consider the tempo and volume that are comfortable to hear.
Now, what if you’re a person who talks slowly and speaks softly, and they talk loudly and quickly? Just pay attention, listen to them, and mimic their speed and volume within reason. A quick word of caution here, though: If you’re talking to someone who has an accent, don’t mimic that — just tempo and volume.
7. Clarify your understanding by asking for specifics.
You can increase your comprehension all throughout the sales call by listening and asking for specifics. For example, “Mr. Jones, can you give me some specifics on that?” Or, “Mr. Jones, can you give me a few more specifics on A, B and C.”
Ask for specifics.
8. Listen for clues to close the deal.
Phrases like the following signal that your prospect is ready to close the deal: “I need to do this really soon.” “My boss is upset, and I need to get something figured out.” “We’ve got a challenge that we’ve got to figure out in the next 30 days.”
So, be listening for clues, which some people call them “buying signals.”
In my sales training, when I listen to clients’ calls, though, I’m not always hearing them listen for these clues. For example, a salesperson I’ll call “Roman” sent me a call to listen through, and his prospect actually said, “Roman, I’m ready to go. This is great. Let’s close this deal.” And Roman was so caught up in his slide deck that he just kept going on.
I wish I’d been there so I could’ve stomped on his toe and said, “Hey, Roman, pay attention. He wants to buy now. You don’t need to sell him anymore.”
9. Don’t interrupt.
There’s almost nothing more annoying that someone who interrupts. So, as a listening skill, if you have an answer ready to give to a client, don’t be sitting on the edge of your seat. Don’t be sitting there with your mouth open, ready to go. Don’t interrupt.
Now ,if you do need to interject something, wait for the appropriate time. You might raise your finger when it’s time to jump in. Signify that you have something to say. But don’t interrupt. Interrupting is irritating on so many levels.
10. Ask questions, but smart ones.
Ask questions that have a real purpose. Don’t ask questions just to ask questions.
Make sure they’re good questions, though, and be careful to avoid open-ended questions that are trite and overused. Here’s an example of what not to do: “So Bill, what keeps you up at night?” That’s not a good question — and it sounds kind of creepy.
Also avoid, “Tell me what’s working for you right now?” Because here you’re inviting your prospect or client to either say, “Nothing,” or to talk about your nearest competitor and what they’re doing for them.
Here are some great questions you can consider instead: “What would one new customer mean to you?” Or, “What can I do to save you money this month?”
Or this one: “When you took this meeting with me, was there a problem you were hoping that I could potentially solve?”
To sum up, listening is a skill that every salesperson says they’re good at. Yet when I evaluate sales strategy, most of the time I find that salespeople are preaching.
Remember this: When you’re preaching, you’re not listening—and when you’re not listening, you’re not selling.
Listen more to sell more.