The Sales Art of Listening


There is a common misconception in the world of sales that you succeed only by product knowledge, preparation and by sheer determination. Too many salespeople focus primarily on manipulative sales tactics and mastering product knowledge, missing the point of how a sale actually happens. You will never sale a car by simply knowing everything about it.

While you may be able to trick people into buying from you occasionally, you can only build long-term success by connecting real human beings with solutions to their needs. This can only happen if you take the time to listen and understand.

Listening allows us to connect our product knowledge, preparation, and sales skill with a buyer’s needs and wants. Listening allows us to understand what portions of our knowledge and what aspects of our skill are necessary in each unique situation.  While product knowledge and preparation is somewhat mechanical, listening and connecting with a buyer is an art.

Focus on the Person, Not the Sale

Too often salespeople get caught up in closing the sale and miss the opportunity to build a relationship. Salespeople have a bad reputation for being pushy. This comes from focusing on the sale and not the person. Long term success in sales only comes through building relationships.

While it is important to follow your sales process, it is equally important to be flexible throughout the process to allow for the unique needs of the individual you are serving. Some buyers move quickly through the Introduction, Qualifying, Overcoming Objections, and Closing stages of the sales process. Other buyers need a lot more time in the Qualifying and Overcoming Objection stages. Take the time to listen, and don’t force your buyer into the Closing stage when there are still obvious objections.

Listen More Than You Talk.

It has been said that you have two ears and one mouth, and that you should use them proportionally. This means that before you start spouting off from your fountain of product knowledge, you should take the time to listen and really qualify your buyer.

Before you start to think that by listening more and talking less you will be missing out on sales, consider this: Silence can be one of the most powerful negotiation tactics. One of the unwritten rules of negotiation is that “he who speaks first loses”. This phrase can be analyzed many ways, but in this scenario, if you start speaking before you have taken the time to listen and understand, you have given up a lot of leverage in the negotiation.

Notice Body Language

It has been said that body language accounts for at least 80% of communication. A response to a question can have so many possible nuances depending on the tone of voice, body position, hand gestures and facial expressions. All of these factors contribute to the true meaning of what is being said. Reading body language is an art that takes time to develop, but it starts by listening and focusing more on your what your buyer is saying and less on your own goals and motivations.

All of the suggestions discussed in this article are reasons why listening is an art, and not a science. No two situations are exactly alike. There is no formula you can use to arrive at the correct answer every time. Listening is something that can be improved upon over time, but the real secret is to learn to connect with other humans and to help them find solutions to their problems.

Good luck and happy selling!