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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Silence is Golden: 3 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

improve listening skills"Silence is golden"—usually this is said right after your children leave the room and you finally have a moment of peace.

As much as that is a "funny" joke for parents, the concept of silence is a rare one in today's world. Are we ever "silent?" And when I say "silent," I don't mean staring at our phones for hours at a time.
In the context of sales, silence has another meaning. Silence is an opportunity to stop talking, be quiet, focus, and listen. Yes, I know this is a radical concept for those us that are gregarious, loud-mouth, salespeople.
Sales Accelerator - Sample the Finding Leads courseHow many times have you had an appointment with an Account Executive, expecting to hear your rep ask questions and then wait to hear the client's answers, only see them never stop talking?
They are so excited to a) have an appointment and b) thrilled to "pitch" their product that they never take a moment to listen to what the client has to say. It's horrible, and it happens all the time. What a waste of new business appointment!
How can you sell someone anything if you don't know or understand what they want to achieve? You can't.

3 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills to Improve Your Sales Performance 

1. Ask One Question at a Time

This sounds really simple, but I'm always surprised when people will ask a series of complex questions that run together.
First, it's impossible for someone to answer 2, 3, or even 4 questions at one time. Rather, they'll pick one question, usually, the easiest one to answer. And how can you listen effectively, if they're not answering two-thirds of your questions? If the goal of any new business appointment is to gain valuable insight into your prospect's business, you have to get them to answer your questions so you can listen to them.

2. Actively Listen and Take Notes

The key here is "actively." You can't be actively listening if you are busy forming your next question, while your prospect is still answering your last one. By being prepared with your questions ahead of time, you'll be able to listen and take notes during your meeting. Also, be prepared for some "dead-air." Allowing a short pause when the prospect stops talking gives you time to digest what they just said, and it gives the prospect time to think too. Taking notes will keep you focused on the task at hand and help you when you return to the office to prepare your proposal.

3. Ask, Listen, Ask

After you have asked a question, be sure to stop and really listen to the answer BEFORE asking any follow-up questions. Don't be in such a hurry to ask your question that you forget to LISTEN to their answer! Rememberit's why you are there!

Bonus Tip

If you are asking good questions, taking good notes, and actively listening, but the prospect isn't giving you much to work with, simply say, "Tell Me More." This will give the prospect the opportunity to expound further on his answer and you more time to actively listen to them.

30 provocative questions

*Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2019 and has since been updated.

Topics: Needs Analysis sales performance prospecting