3 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills


In sales, the ability to truly listen is what separates the Top 20% of producers from the bottom 80%. Now when I say "listen," I mean much more than just hearing what a prospect is saying. Many sales reps hear their prospects, but because they are unprepared to handle various objections or questions, they are usually too busy thinking up what they are going to say next to truly hear what their prospects are saying. And that's where the top 20% excel.

The most important thing you can do to begin making more sales is to start listening to your prospects. Once you do, you'll know exactly what to say - and what not to say - to get the sale. Here are three things you can begin doing today to become a better listener:

  1. Begin listening for and writing down any unique phrases or words your prospects use. While about 80 to 90% of what people say is the same, if you really listen you'll find that everyone has a unique word, phrase or way of saying something. For example, many companies have different terms for a sales rep. Some call them sales executives, some call them account managers, some sales reps, etc.

    Listening for and writing down these unique phrases will train you to pay more attention. To be even more effective, make sure and use these phrases when speaking with your prospect during this call and during the closing call as well. Doing this is what is known as mirroring your prospect and it is a proven and effective way to build rapport and make your prospect feel heard.
  2. Record yourself. You may have heard this advice from me before, but are you doing it yet? Recording yourself and listening to your conversations - both sides - is the fastest, most efficient way of improving your listening skills (and sales skills, closing skills, etc.). The bottom line is that when you're on the phone you're usually so preoccupied with your prospect that you don't have any idea what you actually sound like (or how well you listen).

    Recording your calls and then listening to them in the quiet and safety of your conference room or car allows you the chance to really listen to yourself. In the beginning, this can be a painful and embarrassing exercise, but, again, it is the most powerful way to improve. The point is - you can't improve something you're not aware of, and by listening to your recordings, you're going to become immediately aware of how you're doing - and what you want to change.

    Recording yourself also allows you to measure your improvement as well, and constant reinforcement is a powerful way to make and maintain positive changes.
  3. Use your mute button. I think the most valuable button on your phone is the mute button. By simply pushing mute when you ask a question or when your prospect starts talking, you are not only forced to allow your prospect to keep talking, but if you can't help yourself, you can talk and interrupt all you want and they won't hear you! Believe me, this was crucial for me as I couldn't stop talking in the beginning to save my life!

    Here's a tip: Once you hit mute, leave it on for a couple of seconds even if you think they are done talking. You will be amazed by how much more information your prospect will provide you if you just shut up and listen.

  4. Don't be fooled by how simple these suggestions sound - they are harder to follow then they seem. But the good news is that they are so much more powerful then they seem as well. Remember, what separates you from the Top 20% is your ability to really listen and hear what your prospect is saying. But once you master these three simple techniques, closing sales like the Top 20% will be simple as well!
Mike Brooks
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Do you have an underperforming inside sales team? Talk to Mike to see how he can help you and your team reach your revenue goals. To learn more about Mike, visit his website: http://www.MrInsideSales.com
  • /data/userPictures/2119D00F-B121-4B3F-A037-2A94EE27BBCF.jpgThomas Doyle1/31/2013 9:47:17 AM
    Great information. Active listening takes effort and requires an open mind. It reminds me of one of the "Seven Habits" from Covey "Seek First to Understand, Than be Understood".

  • /data/userPictures/2D9D22D6-D7C3-487D-BAD2-AE761F3EE556.jpgPaul Lowe8/26/2014 11:12:12 PM
    Listening is so vital. I've gotten better but still need to work on mastering this skill. I've never considered recording but am always willing to try new techniques for improvement.

  • /data/userPictures/B46D1385-DDCB-416B-8228-2B44D38CF885.jpgShaillender Mittal1/17/2015 3:24:29 AM
    Great inputs! I would also add listening to the emotions to actually interpret what is heard correctly - What I hear + How is it said = What it means.

  • /data/userPictures/591003BA-98B9-445D-971C-713701E7EC98.jpgApostolos Plytas12/30/2015 9:19:03 AM
    Sitting back and listening, gives you also the opportunity to interpret body language! Also, always take notes of what the other is saying.

  • /data/userPictures/5D2CD7EA-1207-4D0E-AEFA-ADA3281023DE.jpgNan Hruby1/4/2017 8:10:55 AM
    Great article!