sales coaching conversation

23 Aug 2020

Listening is the new selling

A recently while talking to a consultant friend who is in the operations consulting and asked him, what is he doing towards sales, he said I am not selling anything.

I kind of was taken aback and asked what he means by that? He said, I’m reaching out to all my past and current clients, not to sell them but to listen to them. 

They’re going through a tough time right now and they need someone who really understands. And luckily, without really trying, some of those conversations are turning into new projects.”

At upfront, this seems farfetched but fact is new way of selling is listening in many cases.

Today top sellers use the tool and skills of listening to understand clients situations and offer solutions that matches their situations.

Unfortunately not many are good at listening at this level! Most people are trained to promote their products or services without making a sincere effort to understand their client’s situations.

This blog gives you simple practical tips

11 simple practical tips to improve listening

Listening is a critical skill for all adults to have, to learn about others. Also, it is one of the most valuable tools for you to establish a strong rapport with your clients.
The following common guidelines can help you to accomplish effective listening in the vast majority of situations.  This is from the source.

  • Be sure you can hear the clients. It is surprising how often people do not really listen to other people. It is just as surprising how often people do not realize that they cannot even hear other people. So always make this your first guideline in any situation for effective listening.
  • Overall, attempt to listen 75% of the time – speak 25% of the time. This is one of the most powerful guidelines. The use of guidelines depends on your situation. During the initial client, discovery listening is more important than speaking. Whereas during presenting, you will speak more.
  • Adopt a culturally compatible physical posture to show you are interested: This can be a powerful means to show others that you are interested in hearing them. For example, you might lean forward and maintain eye contact. Whatever physical gestures you make, be sure they are compatible with the culture of the speaker.
  • Do not think about what to say while you are also trying to listen to the speaker. Your brain goes four times faster than a speaker’s voice. Thus, your brain can easily leave the speaker behind. Instead, trust that you will know how to respond to the speaker when the speaker is done

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Stephen R. Covey, 
  • Notice the other’s speaking style. In the rapport building, we talked about different types of people and one way to differentiate is by speaking styles. Do they speak loud or soft? Slow or fast? Some people convey the central idea first and then support it with additional information. Other people provide information to lead the listener to the same conclusion as the speaker. 
  • Listen to the central ideas, not for all the facts. Top 1% of sales professionals develop a sense for noticing the most important information conveyed by their clients. They hear the main themes and ideas from their clients. If you notice the major ideas, then often the facts “come along” with those ideas. 
  • Let the client finish each major point that he/she wants to make. Do not interrupt – offer your response when the client is done. If you do have to interrupt, do so to ensure you are hearing the other person. Interrupt tactfully. For example, Put up your hand or gesture positively and say “Mr. X, Just to ensure our we get best out of our time, can I interrupt you to ask a question?”
  • Reflect back and ask if you are hearing accurately. This is also one of the most powerful guidelines. Start by asking if you can reflect back, or summarize, to the other person after he/she has spoken. Just let me summarize “repeat what they have said by summarizing in 3 simple steps or so”. Very few do this and generally, we want people to listen to us. So if you listen and summarize, it makes a huge difference. 
  • Regularly share indications that you are listening to them. Those indications can be, for example, nodding your head, saying, “Yes” to short points that you agree with. Use verbal, do not simply nod head. Especially on video or telephone call, keep sharing indications.
  • Learn the art of supportive questioning. Client engagement involves the use of powerful questions to understand yours and other’s perceptions, assumptions, and conclusions. To understand the client’s needs and desires, you must practice effective questioning skills. Refer to our blog on questioning here
  • Ask others to provide you feedback about your communication skills. Often, people do not know what they do not know about themselves. Many who claim have good listening skills, do interrupt others. Some others simply talk about final conclusions without telling how they arrived. They can’t articulate a clear rationale. So good to get feedback from others about your listening.

Habits to Differentiate Good From Poor Listening

Only about 25 percent of listeners grasp the central ideas in communications.

As per the book, “How to Be a Better Listener” by Sherman K. Okum, and from “Building a Professional Image: Improving Listening Behavior” by Philip Morgan and Kent Baker, Supervisory Management.

To improve listening skills, consider the following:

Poor ListenerEffective Listener
tends to be dreaming or lose patience with slow speakersthinks and mentally summarizes, weighs the evidence, listens between the lines to tones of voice and evidence
If client is telling that is not boring, they interrupt or lose out.finds what’s in it for me
distracted easilyfights distractions see past bad communication habits knows how to concentrate
Focus on taking notes without understanding value.. Also only follows one way of taking noteshas 2-3 ways to take notes and organizes important information. Focus is on tone|expression than only information
is overstimulated, tends to seek and enter into argumentsdoesn’t judge until comprehension is complete
inexperienced in listening to difficult material; has usually sought light, recreational materialsuses “important” materials to regularly exercise the mind
lets blind words or accents catch his or her attentioninterpret color words, and doesn’t get hung up on them
shows no energy outputholds eye contact and helps the speaker along by showing an active body state
judges delivery — tunes outjudges content, skips over delivery errors
listens for factslistens for central ideas
Good and bad habits of listening


Listening is one of the most effective sales skill. But most people do not give the importance to this or lack the knowledge and patience to practice this skill. Also, there are wrong notions that listening is passive and being aggressive is important.

But top performers know that listening is what gets them top deals done and continuously practice the listening skill.