How to Listen

I’ve had the task to write this article on my calendar for about three weeks. The reminder went off two hours ago and here I am, just starting to type. In 27 minutes, I have a conference call when I know someone is going to ask me, “Jeff, is your post ready to submit yet?” Sound familiar?

In today’s always-on business environment, we are only a Internet connection away from total connectivity and accountability for the roles we fill. With that comes the inundation of information, signals, reminders, pop-ups, data feeds and information to help make decisions. For sales professionals, these tools serve a strong role in staying connected to a client, but also can serve as distractions. As I continue to return email, check my CRM dashboards and check in with our sales team, I realize the best advice I have on how to listen may help me start this blog post!

There are a number of readily available listening tips—a lot of them I agree with and some Acquirent was built on. To listen well, you should ask good questions and rephrase what your prospect is telling you. Taking notes as the other person talks can help you retain information. These are all good ways to listen. But before you even get to the listening part, it’s important to create an environment where you can listen effectively.

TURN OFF YOUR EMAIL

Pop-up notices are the death of concentration and productivity. To listen, you need to focus. Distractions—such as email, interoffice chat portals and other feeds—grab your attention at a key moment in an important conversation with a prospect. (Of course, as I type, I received an email update on a new LinkedIn connection.)

DEDICATE TIME BLOCKS FOR CALLS

Connecting with prospects or clients is the most important thing we do as a sales person. As such, hold this time as sacred and do only that task. By setting aside a dedicated time, you will be focused and in the moment so you can listen completely.

HAVE A GOAL FOR THE CALL

Often the biggest hindrance to listening is thinking. If you’re thinking about a next step while your prospect is talking, you’re not hearing what they are saying. Instead, I recommend going into each conversation with a plan and goal to keep you on track and take some of the think work out of the equation.

PRACTICE YOUR CRAFT

And that applies to listening. If you are the best at what you do and it comes as muscle memory, you remain focused and able to actively listen. Just as major league baseball (MLB) players practice batting every day before a game, sales professionals need to practice what they do before hitting the phones. What do MLB players teach us? They demonstrate the importance of practicing the thing they do most each game, before each game. As a sales pro, when was the last time you practiced a call or gave it a dry run? Give it a try before your next call.

LISTENING ISN’T EASY, AND EFFECTIVE LISTENING IS EVEN HARDER

Listening skills can make or break your ability to close your next deal. When a salesperson asks me to review a call to determine why they lost a deal, I often refer to an earlier conversation to see what they missed hearing or missed asking early in the process that would have made them more effective in the close and earn the right to ask for business.

Listening is a powerful ally in your ability to be a successful sales professional. However, good, active and effective listening is a skill you need to practice. So focus, stop reading my post, set the stage for great listening and listen more.

Happy selling!