Sales Boost: Step 1


Being able to listen – to really hear and understand what clients are saying – is a skill every sales rep needs to succeed in today’s marketplace. Here’s how to improve your listening skills – and your sales.


Clients buy from reps who really pay attention to their needs.

PLANT QUESTIONS IN YOUR MIND: Just before engaging in conversation with a potential buyer, get a few client-focused questions in your head for which you will look for answers during the chat, says Dave Kahle, sales trainer, speaker and author of Question Your Way To Sales Success. A question could be “I wonder what the biggest benefit they are looking for is?” or “What’s their most important objective?” Says Kahle: “What happens is your mind delves into the conversation and looks for answers to those questions, keeping you engaged.”

USE VERBAL PROMPTS: Another way to improve your listening is to communicate with the help of verbal prompts, says Kahle. Here the idea is to listen for key words the client says that encapsulate important information about their situation. When the client pauses, you then nod and repeat back a couple of these relevant signifiers. For instance, if a client says sales are “up a bit this year,” you would say, “up a bit.” Says Kahle: “When you’re listening for those keywords, you’re forced to really focus,” says Kahle. “The added benefit is that the prompt sends a message to the customer that you are listening and trying to understand.”

LET THEM HAVE THEIR SAY: As a child, you were probably taught that interrupting is rude. Well, it remains so when you’re an adult. Before interjecting your opinion, let the prospect say everything they feel compelled to. If you interrupt, you may miss valuable information buyers want to communicate that will help you land a deal.

EMPATHIZE: By tapping into not only what the client is telling you but how they feel about what they’re saying, you can connect on a deeper level. The greater understanding will help you craft a better solution, and be more relatable. To help you connect, try to form a mental picture of what the prospect is communicating.

PARAPHRASE WHAT A CLIENT COMMUNICATES: When you paraphrase, you summarize something a customer has said and give it back to them in different words. This not only shows clients you’re truly engaged – something that will impress them – it ensures you understand the nature of their goals and needs. Kahle suggests beginning the paraphrase by saying, “Ok, let me see if I understand. In other words, what you are saying is…” and then get into the specifics. If the client affirms the accuracy of what you’ve just said, you’re golden. If not, apologize, ask what you missed, and then try paraphrasing again.