Effective Listening – Letting Your Client Sell For You

Far to many in the sales field spend such focus on worrying about what they are going to say when they have the opportunity, preparing their pitch that they fail to listen. Listening is the #1 obstacle and roadblock to successful sales and closing closing the sale. With effective listening the customer will tell you how to close the sale. With proper listening you will fully understand the what they consider to be their problem they face, and as a result present a clear solution.


Listening – The ability to accurately receive, understand, and interpret messages in the communication process.

“Effective Communication,” engaged listening skills must be the #1 priority. The message is easily misunderstood without the ability to effectively listen. When, broken down communication and the feeling of not being heard is felt by the communicator they easily become frustrated or irritated.

Engaged, effective listening is the one skill that you should strive to master because it will directly affect your sales success building valuable customer relations. It is not surprising that good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, and increased sharing of information while in turn can lead to increase in sales.

*Spend some time thinking about and developing your listening skills – they are the building blocks of success.

Good listening skills also have benefits in our personal lives, including:

  • A greater number of friends and social networks
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence, higher grades at school and in academic work and
  • Better health and general well-being.

*Studies have shown that, whereas speaking raises blood pressure, attentive listening can bring it down.

Listening is Not the Same as Hearing

Hearing refers to the sounds that enter your ears. It is a physical process that happens automatically, provided you do not have any hearing problems.

Listening, however, requires more than that: it requires removing distractions, focus and a concentrated effort, both mental and sometimes physical as well. [closing your laptop, turning your body, eye contact, positive engaged body language]

Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body language. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. Ones ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages. It means putting the communicator first.

The listener can, and should, be at least as engaged in the process as the speaker. Listening is not a passive process. The phrase ‘active listening’ is used to describe this process of being fully involved/engaged.

“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.”

We Spend a lot of Time Listening

The average adult spends 70% of their time engaged in communication of some kind. This research also shows that an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. (Adler, R. et al. 2001). That is, by any standards, a lot of time listening. It would be worth while to do some self evaluation as to how much listening versus talking that you do.

Barriers to Effective Listening

To improve the process of effective listening, it can be helpful to turn the problem on its head. While communicating look at your barriers to effective listening,  or ineffective listening.

For example, one common problem is that instead of listening closely to what someone is saying, we often get distracted after a sentence or two, and instead start to think about what we are going to reply. Consequently, this means that we do not listen to the rest of the speaker’s message.

Often we are distracted by the person speakings appearance, or by other conversation occurring in proximity. These issues not only affect you, but you are likely to show your lack of attention in your body language to the one speaking. The result? Frustration!  In general, we find it much harder to control our body language, and you are likely to show your distraction and/or lack of interest by lack of eye contact, or posture. The speaker will detect the problem, and probably stop talking at best. The result, they may become very offended or upset.

10 Principles of Listening:

1. Stop Talking – Don’t talk, listen.

“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” -Mark Twain

  • When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Stop, just listen. 
  • When the other person has finished talking you may need to clarify to ensure you have received their message accurately.

2. Prepare Yourself to Listen – Relax.

  • Focus on the speaker, while putting other things out of mind.  The human mind is easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for lunch, what time do I need to leave to catch my plane, is it going to rain – try to put other thoughts out of mind and concentrate on the messages that are being communicated.

3. Put the Speaker at Ease – Help the speaker to feel free to speak.

  • Remember their needs and concerns. Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue. 
  • Maintain eye contact but don’t stare – show you are listening and understanding what is being said.

4. Remove Distractions – Focus on what is being said.

  • Don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, pick your fingernails or similar. 
  • Avoid unnecessary interruptions. These behaviors disrupt the listening process and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.

5. Empathize – Try to understand the other person’s point of view.

  • Look at issues from their perspective. Let go of preconceived ideas. By having an open mind we can more fully empathize with the speaker. 
  • If the speaker says something that you disagree with then wait and construct an argument to counter what is said but keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others.

6. Be Patient

  • A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished.
  • Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time, sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it. 
  • Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.

7. Avoid Personal Prejudice – Try to be impartial.

  • Don’t become irritated and don’t let the mannerisms distract you from what the speaker is really saying.
  • Everybody has a different way of speaking – some people are for example more nervous or shy than others, some have regional accents or make excessive arm movements, some people like to pace whilst talking – others like to sit still. 
  • Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.

8. Listen to the Tone – Volume and tone both add to what someone is saying.

  • A good speaker will use both volume and tone to their advantage to keep an audience attentive; everybody will use pitch, tone and volume of voice in certain situations – let these help you to understand the emphasis of what is being said.

9. Listen for Ideas – Not Just Words

  • You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces. Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others. With proper concentration, let go of distractions, and focus this becomes easier.

10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication

  • Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important.
  • Watch closely, as a result you will pick up additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication. We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes.