Sales Skills

by Jeremy Cassell and Tom Bird

Listen and learn

The reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth is, so that we may listen more and talk less.


So, honestly, how good are you at listening? It is almost a cliché that listening is a core sales skill, and yet surprising how often salespeople are not primarily focused on listening when they sell. Time and again research suggests that those who really listen tend to be more successful in developing long-term relationships (in selling, and life in general).


The following list contains some of the common reasons why salespeople end up not listening when selling, or giving the impression of not listening. Have you ever caught yourself doing any of the following while someone has been speaking to you? They are listening limiters and will detract from your effectiveness as a salesperson.

What are your dark and guilty secrets? Tick any of these 15 where you must plead guilty. And, come on, be honest with yourself!

(  )
Rehearsing what I am going to say about my product/service while the other person is still talking
(  )
Getting impatient for them to finish so I can start talking
(  )
Not being interested in what they are trying to communicate
(  )
Getting bored and thinking about something else (football, cars, children, what I did last night, holidays) while they are speaking
(  )
Thinking ‘I’m a busy person. I have got so many other things I could be getting on with’
(  )
Tapping on my computer keyboard when on the telephone to clients or prospects
(  )
Anticipating what they are going to say before they say it
(  )
Dismissing what they are saying as irrelevant to me
(  )
Finishing off other people’s sentences, talking over the other person or interrupting
(  )
Thinking that they are making the point far too slowly to keep me interested
(  )
Thinking, ‘Who cares what they are concerned about? I have got my own worries to deal with!’
(  )
Preferring to talk rather than keep quiet
(  )
Assuming that they do not know what they are talking about before they speak
(  )
Fidgeting and appearing not to be listening
(  )
Focusing on something else in the room and losing focus

If you have scored six or more then this section is for you! Great listeners put aside these distractions and really listen. If you are curious, you will listen, and if you are really focused on the other party and minimise distractions, you can listen with rapt attention.

The benefits of listening can be extraordinary. People open up; they indicate how to they like to receive information; they confide in you, and they speak about the most interesting and important person in their worlds – themselves!

Eight key points

Listening should be an active process in selling and if you develop this muscle, you will improve your ability to influence others. Below are eight elements of active listening.

  1. Value the other party: show concern and demonstrate that you respect his/her position.
  2. Listen to what is not said: pay attention to what is missing, to beliefs masked as judgements and to body language.
  3. Limit the time you speak. Many people have low attention spans, so minimise your chunks of ‘sales speak’ to about 30 seconds.
  4. Avoid thinking about what you are about to say or you will miss the message. Do not try to manipulate the conversation by asking questions to which you already know the answer.
  5. Listen to the other party’s point of view – she has a unique perception of the world.
  6. Either repeat and reflect the other’s comments to ensure you heard them correctly or summarise them.
  7. Take notes, but avoid transcripts.
  8. Maintain eye contact, whenever possible.