How Sales People Can Improve Their Listening Skills

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Listerning SkillsIt’s often said that you never learn anything when you’re talking, only when you’re listening.

How true is that statement!

But we often meet people who are poor listeners.

They interrupt, they are full of their own self-opinionated ideas, they love the sound of their own voice and they seldom allow you to get a word in.

Know who I mean?!

Listening is a skill that can be developed. Yes, it’s a skill, which means it can be improved, built on and enriched. Ever feel that you could do with listening a bit better?

Here are ten ways you can improve your listening skills:

Practice your listening skills.

This seems obvious but listening improves with practice. When you’re watching TV or a DVD, or even listening to two people having a discussion in front of you, practice real listening. Imagine someone gave you a test after the conversation and asked you to sum up the main points. Would you be able to?

Stay curious.

You need to be inquisitive rather than judgemental. Ask yourself why the other person has that opinion. Especially if their ideas differ from yours, you should wonder why they think that way.

Link what people say to what you already know.

Memory is all about association, so think how what they have said links up with your current knowledge. Does it add some value? Does it fill in any gaps? Does it act as a contrast to what you already know? By listening attentively, you build up a real storehouse of information, even it contradicts what you already believe.

Find areas of common interest.

Is there a way you can link what they are saying to something you have an interest in as well. Maybe you both know similar people. Maybe you lived in the same area a few years back. This commonality breeds security and builds rapport between people.

Try to resist external distractions.

I say ‘try’ because this is a hard one. If it’s a noisy room, block out the noise by concentrating hard on what they are saying. Focus on them rather than what others around are saying. The speaker will appreciate your interest.

Ask questions to clarify understanding.

If what they’re saying is too general or they have missed out important details, ask for clarification and allow the person to fill in the details. If you use guesswork or only think you know what they mean but are unsure, you cause confusion to reign supreme!

Summarise often.

Just to make sure you are on the right wavelength as the speaker, summarise your understanding of what they have said so they can correct you or confirm you have understood perfectly.

Watch the non-verbal signals.

How a person says something often gives more of a message than what they say, so watch what they are doing with their hands, establish eye-contact and keep in tune with their whole body language.

Listen to content and emotion.

Very often, we hear the words but we don’t listen to the emotions that come with them. By identifying how people feel about something, you get more than just part of the message, so be interested in how the message is coming across too.

Listen to understand, not necessarily agree.

Stephen Covey said that most people listen with the intent to reply. What we should do is attempt to understand their meaning. It doesn’t mean you agree with them; you simply see what their perception is, you wonder why they feel that way and you have a clearer view of why they have that opinion.

Having followed these ideas of how to improve your listening, you then earn the right to share your views and hopefully the other person will learn from your good listening skills how they should listen too.

You never know, you might affect how many of your products they buy from you too.

And remember; no-one ever got sacked for listening too much!

Listening is just one of the key skills needed to be successful in sales. Why don’t you benchmark yourself against what excellence looks like in your role by taking a Sales Assessment. You will receive a personalised report of your strengths and weaknesses.

Improve your skills further by attending our 2-day Sales Skills Training masterclass. You’ll attend with people from other organisations and learn from them as well. It’s a fun, practical course which is accredited by the ISM.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Dollarphotoclub

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 18 February, 2016

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