Where Sales Trainers and Selling Experts share advice, tips, and techniques on how to become a sales champion!

Sales Skills: Active Listening By Joe Miller and Matt Dahlstrom


People love to be heard. Everyone has a soap box stashed away, waiting for their moment. That’s why one of the greatest compliments you can give a person is to listen to them. It validates them as a person. So work at giving it to them. It sounds easy, but it’s one of the hardest things we can get people to learn, because all people have their soapbox, including you. Your job is to keep your soapbox stashed away.

Active listening is easy. It is as simple as taking a seat in front of your customer, opening your eyes and ears and paying attention to what the customer says and does. Through active listening, a salesperson can build a relationship faster, prod the customer to expand on what they are saying, show empathy, and gain greater memory recall after the conversation, if they listen.

For a quick sales training course we are going to share two similar techniques named parroting or paraphrasing. These are powerful tools in your active listening strategy. Both involve repeating back to the customer what the customer just said. Parroting is repeated word for word, while paraphrasing is a fusion of what they said and what you understood, reframed in your context. Parroting is a photocopy, while paraphrasing is a summarization. The first works best if you are going to repeat something short. It’s easy to remember and therefore easy to repeat. The second works best if you are repeating back a long-winded statement or a more complicated idea.

If you can repeat a statement with a questioning tone, you will entice the customer to expound upon what they have already stated. If you use a statement tone of voice, it signifies to the customer that the statement was heard and registered. You are telling them you understand, or asking them to verify and confirm what you think you understand.

The confirmation technique shows the customer you are actively listening. Wait for the customer to say something important. When the customer pauses, make a comment confirming that you heard the customer. Comments such as, “I hear you,” “I understand,” or “I see,” show empathy and lead you to a state of active listening. This is not the end all, be all, however, which we will discuss in a minute.

There are pitfalls to this technique, and there is one you should avoid at all costs. A salesperson should never interrupt, talk over, or finish their customer’s sentences for them. Go to any store and take interest in a product. Does the salesperson interrupt, talk over you, or finish your sentences for you? Does your waiter move on to the next person before you’ve had a chance to order your full meal? Doesn’t it make you angry? Now imagine how your customer feels. If you can’t empathize with this situation, you’re dead in the water, because you’ll never actively listen.

It’s OK. You’re not alone. We all do it. We learned it when we were kids and our parents made us wait five minutes to ask a simple question while they talked about the wonders of Ovaltine and the evils of Castor Oil with Aunt Agnes. That’s where we learned the old, “Yeah, but.” As kids, we learned we had to fight to be heard and fight to be respected. Great. Now you must unlearn it. Sales is not a fight. They don’t have to respect you. They just have to give you the sale and buy from you.  Keep it simple.  Keep it easy.  Follow thee simple principles from our sales training course, “Selling is Easy” and you will listen, learn and sell.
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Joe Miller and Matt Dahlstrom have been training sales people in some of America’s largest and most successful companies for over ten years. They are dedicated to helping every salesperson learn how to make selling easy, make more sales and earn more money. Visit them at www.salesmonkeys.com or call at 1-866-966-1066.

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