Listen Up and Master the Art of Listening to Grow Your Relationships and Your Sales

“When people talk, listen completely.”

Ernest Hemingway
2 people having a conversation and listening

How is your business? Are you looking to grow your sales?

Do you believe if you grow your relationships, that will lead to sales?

Great! Better relationships will lead to better sales. This is where listening comes in. It is listening, more than talking, that will develop the relationship stronger. With this in mind, how would you rate your listening skills?

Do you occasionally have people tell you “Thanks for listening”?

It’s common to think that we are good listeners. We tend to think that because we hear everything that is being said, we therefore must be good listeners.

What The Data Shows

Has this ever happened to you, you ask someone how they are, and you expect a “fine” response. However, they continue to speak and tell you something beyond that one word you expected. In your mind, you expected a short response and your listening stopped. You hear the words, but you aren’t truly engaged in listening, are you?

Statistics from Gong show the best-producing salespeople, are speaking less than 50% of the time, actually about 46%. This makes sense, doesn’t it? Most salespeople fall in the high 60s, which is two-thirds or more of the speaking. Therefore, if we are talking twice as much as the other person, its no surprise why people think those who are in sales, do most of the talking.

 People who are given the chance to speak and be heard, are going to feel better about the conversation. In sales and in relationships, speaking less is often more.

Why Engage the Listener

Since this is such a valuable topic, why not engage the Listener, Colin D. Smith of Dexterity Solutions, I thought. After all, he is a great resource on the topic.

Being intentional and focused on what the other person is saying is not always easy. In fact, we often multitask whether it be the computer or phone screens or some other activity. What about being able to multitask, while someone is speaking? We certainly can look at our phone or computer while someone is speaking, right? We might think so, however, as Colin explains in the conversation, there is a big difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is unintentional, while listening is intentional and requires focus and concentration.

To illustrate this difference, Colin uses a simple exercise using a piece of music. He asks people to listen to the music and then listen to the different instruments and vocals. Finally, he asks them to just relax and BE with the music. This exercise helps people to understand that listening is not just about hearing the words being spoken, but also about picking up on subtle signals and energies that can help us understand the other person better.

In a sales environment, this is especially important. When we listen to understand, rather than just reply, we can pick up on things like how the prospect feels. This can help us tailor our approach to better meet their needs and build a stronger relationship. The same is true at home or with internal customers in our business.

How Does Creating a Safe Environment Fit In?

What does providing a safe place have to do with our listening? The concept of psychological safety is a crucial factor in creating an environment that promotes effective communication and teamwork. This idea has been studied and emphasized by scholars like Amy Edmondson, who highlights the importance of creating a space where individuals feel safe to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgment or reprisal. (Her TEDx talk is here: )

Providing a safe place is especially relevant when it comes to listening, as the ability to truly listen and understand others requires a certain level of vulnerability and trust. People aren’t going to openly express their thoughts if they are concerned about being judged.

Colin references the Google Project Aristotle. This also emphasizes the importance of psychological safety in the workplace.

Here is an article on that research

This project studied the success of their projects and teams, and the results revealed that psychological safety was the number one factor in determining team effectiveness. When individuals feel safe and supported, they are more likely to speak up, share their ideas and concerns, and collaborate more effectively. This works well in sales too. If the prospect doesn’t feel safe, they are not likely to reveal what is really on their mind.

As Colin suggests, creating a safe space for communication and teamwork is not always easy, but it is an essential aspect of building a successful team.

Tips on how to foster psychological safety in the workplace:

1. Encourage open communication: Encourage team members to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute and be heard.

2. Show empathy: Be empathetic towards others and try to understand their perspective. This will help build trust and create a safe space for communication.

3. Acknowledge mistakes: Acknowledge when mistakes are made and encourage team members to learn from them. This will help create a culture of continuous improvement and growth.

4. Foster a culture of respect: Respect is essential in creating a safe space for communication and teamwork. Make sure everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their position or role.

5. Lead by example: As a leader, it is important to lead by example. Show your team that you are open to feedback and are willing to learn from others.

Be a Good Coach and Show Empathy

While some may see coaching as a distraction from work, it’s the opposite. By understanding the whole person, managers and colleagues can better support each other and work together as a team to achieve common goals. Of course, coaching the whole person doesn’t mean stopping work altogether for a deep dive into personal issues. It’s more about incorporating coaching into daily conversations and interactions.

Over time, as colleagues and managers get to know each other on a deeper level, they can build a better picture of what motivates and challenges each person. This, in turn, allows for more effective coaching and support.

One of the keys to success in the workplace and sales is empathy. By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and truly understanding their perspective, you can serve them better. Understanding that people have moods, may have deadlines on their minds, could be feeling under the weather, and more, showing empathy is of real importance.

The Big Presentation

man presenting from his computer to a prospect

In the world of sales, there is often a focus on the presentation and the speaker. However, what is often overlooked is the importance of listening to the customer. As Colin shares, customers frequently express a desire for salespeople to simply listen to them. It’s a classic scenario: a salesperson meets with a high-level executive, and instead of listening to their concerns and priorities, they launch into a prepared pitch or attempt to steer the conversation towards their own agenda. This not only wastes the executive’s time but also misses a crucial opportunity to build a relationship and understand their needs.

Colin notes that salespeople often interrupt the executive’s train of thought within a matter of seconds, eager to assert their expertise and agenda. However, by taking the time to truly listen and understand the executive’s concerns, a salesperson can demonstrate their value and build a relationship that extends beyond a single transaction.

So how can salespeople improve their listening skills?

First and foremost, it’s important to approach each conversation with an open mind and a genuine interest in the customer’s perspective. Rather than focusing on what you want to sell, ask questions, and actively listen to the answers. This not only helps you build rapport with the customer but also allows you to tailor your pitch to their specific needs and concerns.

In addition, it’s important to be patient and avoid interrupting the customer’s train of thought. Don’t be afraid of silence or pauses in the conversation – these can be valuable opportunities to reflect on the customer’s words and ask follow-up questions. Try counting to 3 after a person finishes speaking. It will allow the information to sink in and show you are truly listening. For those of us who typically jump right in, sometimes before a person finishes their thought, you will see that this is a real difference and will help improve your listening skills.


Being a better listener will translate to better relationships. It will also lead to more trust in the sales arena. Prospects will view you as the salesperson that listens. Internal customers will appreciate being heard and of course, when you bring this skill into personal relationships, there will be plenty of benefits there as well with our children and partner who will sense the safe place you are offering for them to share their thoughts. What are one or two benefits you have seen from working on your listening skills?