Recently I addressed one of the most common mistakes in sales:  sales professionals who talk too much and listen too little and symptoms that indicate whether you suffer from this bad habit.  This topic seemed to resonate with many readers, so I am following up that piece with these Five Tips to Hone Your Listening Skills:

  1. Record your call and note how much time you spend talking versus the customer.  If it isn't a 2-to-1 ratio of listening-to-talking, keep working until it is at least that proportion.
  2. Count "one thousand one, one thousand two" after the customer stops speaking before you begin to speak.
  3. When there is silence between you and your customer, let it linger for at least several seconds. The customer may be gathering his/her thoughts before telling you the most important thing he or she has to say.  If you speak to fill every second of silence, you might interrupt or completely derail their thought.
  4. The rate at which the human brain is able to process information is considerably faster than the average human speaks.  It is very easy (and tempting) to use that excess "listening capacity" thinking about what we want to say next.   Listening exercises, like repeating back what is being said in your mind or trying to anticipate what will be said next, will help you stay engaged in the listening process.
  5. Have only five minutes to spend with a customer?  Try to spend most of it listening.  Remember what Einstein said when asked how he would spend his time if he had one hour to save the world‚ "I would spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and five minutes solving it."

The sales professional who talks too much and listens too little is undermining their own sales success and that of the organization they represent.  Conversely, individuals with stellar listening skills will always be better positioned to uncover their customer's gap and effectively meet their needs. Periodically assessing and addressing our listening habits is prudent for maintaining optimal selling skills, and just makes good business sense.