>I learn a lot from the groups on LinkedIn, and I enjoy hearing the ideas and opinions of my fellow professionals. Recently, I got involved in a discussion entitled, “What do you feel is the most important part of a sales call?” In other words what is the one part, the one thing that either makes a call successful or not successful? It was a huge discussion, so many professionals weighed in. There was debate about how to open a sales call, debate on how to close the sales call and debate on whether it is the client saying yes. Good information, but kind of a silly discussion really. I mean is one part really good without the others? Is one part really more important than the others?

However, as I sat and thought about it, the idea of listening kept coming to my mind. Now, I am going to stop short of saying that listening is the most important part of a sales call, but without it you will miss opportunities and miss the advice of your client on when, how and why they want to buy.

You know you are on a good sales call when the client is doing most of the talking based on the great questions that you asked. In fact, a great sales call should be you talking just 20-percent of the time and the client talking 80-percent of the time. Talking, again, based on the great questions that you asked. If you ask great questions and listen, the prospect will provide you with a stream of ideas, clues and opportunities to sell your product or service. People don’t want you to tell them what they want, they want you to share their story and have you respond with ideas and opportunities on how you can benefit them.

So how do you become a great listener?

How do you know you are a great listener? How do you convey to the client you are really listening and hearing what they are saying?

  1. Know your communication style. Great listening is one critical part of communication. You need to understand your strengths, weaknesses and what specifically you need to work on based on your natural style.
  2. Learn from others what to and not to do. This is my favorite piece of advice. Spend one whole day watching people that you interact with and observe whether they are listening to you. You will learn more from this process of how to be a great listener, what to and not to do, then any advice I can give you.
  3. Engage your whole body. Make eye contact with the prospect, and use facial expressions as they talk. If they say something amusing smile, if they are conveying serious information look intense, if they are saying something you agree with nod your head. Engaging more than just your ears will help you pay attention as well as let the prospect know you are paying attention.
  4. If you struggle to stay focused (and many of you will based on your natural communication style) take notes and agree verbally with the prospect saying yes or I understand. Doing little things to add a little activity to the listening process.
  5. Practice! Oh I know we hate to practice, but if you do your listening skills will improve. Spend ten minutes talking with a member of your family, a friend or your children and just listen. Then, when they are finished, attempt to repeat what you believe you heard. It is fun, and again you’ll get better at listening and they will feel more valued and cared about.
  6. Lastly, do not interrupt. This one is hard for me as I get excited and want to jump in. Nothing is more distracting for the prospect than being interrupted. No matter how great your advice, information or ideas are, if you interrupt the prospect you have clearly stated you do not value what they are saying.

The funny thing about listening is as important as it is, we are never taught to do it. If you want to make selling easy and fun then learn to listen. If you want to turn your prospects into clients then, learn to listen.

Voted Top 15 Business Growth Experts to Watch, and Top 41 Motivational Speakers, Meridith Elliott Powell is a business growth strategist who helps her clients learn the techniques they need to turn uncertainty to competitive advantage. An award-winning author, Meridith’s latest book, with co-author Connie Podesta, is The Best Sales and Sales Leadership Book Ever!