Listening is an essential skill in sales. Effective listening helps you establish relationships and ensure understanding. It also helps you solve problems and provide a better client experience. The more you listen to your prospects and customers, the more productive your sales conversations will be.

While salespeople know the importance of listening, many spend more time talking than hearing what their prospects are saying. They are more focused on their response than actively listening to form thoughtful follow-up questions. This kind of faux listening doesn’t help the salesperson establish credibility or begin to form trust.

So, what can you do to become a better listener? According to Mike Montague, the VP of online learning and development for Sandler Training, you can follow a few helpful tips. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Montague’s thoughts on how to sell more by listening more.

1. Devote the conversation to your prospect. The best way to listen better is to make the discussion all about the other person. Instead of planning what you want to say, give the prospect your complete, undivided attention. Think of it as the opposite of waiting for your turn to speak, says Montague.

2. Listen to learn. According to Montague, it’s best to listen as though you don’t have the answer. You may want to interject a solution to the prospect’s problem, but resist doing this. Keep listening and learning. You’re much more likely to build an emotional connection with the other person, Montague points out.

3. Adapt your listening style. Remember that different people prefer different conversation styles. While some may take their time to form responses, others prefer quicker back-and-forth discussions. Montague encourages sales professionals to be patient enough to determine their prospective buyers’ varying preferences.

4. Use solid follow-up questions. Mastering the art of listening involves asking better questions. Try asking thoughtful questions such as “Can you give me an example?” and “Can you tell me more about that?”

5. Take note of strong words. When a prospective buyer mentions something that worries or frustrates them, lean in and ask them to tell you more, recommends Montague.

6. Find out about the cost of a particular problem. Montague thinks of this as “dollarization.” He says the higher the dollar cost of the problem, the more likely people are to want to solve it. Many problems don’t involve money, but it’s a good place to start.

7. Take notes. Finally, be sure to capture detailed notes. This is especially important when it comes to the cost of a problem or issue. People don’t argue with their own data, Montague says, so write down proof they offer in support of your solution.

Mastering the art of listening requires more than just being quiet while the other person is talking. It requires listening to understand what the other person is saying. Use the guidance above to have more meaningful conversations with prospective buyers. You’ll end up learning more about the other person and setting yourself apart from salespeople who simply want to talk about their solution.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Mike Montague is a Sandler Certified trainer and the VP of online learning and development for Sandler Training Home Office.