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Consultative Selling: Listening Closely with Interest

If you ask a non-salesperson whether salespeople tend to be better at speaking or listening, most will answer they are more adept at speaking. They may also suggest that salespeople are not good listeners. If you want to improve your ability to practice consultative selling, you need to listen closely and with interest.

In The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, you will find advice on listening. I suggest you listen closely to what your contacts say and to wait for a count of four beats before replying. This helps you ensure your contact is done speaking or if they are taking a breath to share something else. Once you are comfortable with the silence, you may wait eight beats, which can encourage your contact to share more. Oftentimes, what they say after your silence is valuable because they know you are listening closely.

Those who have read Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative are familiar with the concept of being One-Up, which means you have greater knowledge and experience compared to your contact. The opposite is being One-Down, which means that you need your contact to provide you with information. The longer you have been selling, the more likely you are to be One-Up, because your experience is great. At the same time, you are also One-Down, meaning you need to learn key information that you can get only from your contacts.

Listening Closely with Interest

One of the benefits of being a great listener is that your many conversations give you the ability to recognize a client’s problem and what they need to do to improve their business and their results. When this is true, being a consultative seller will require you to listen carefully to what your contact is saying. This is true even if you already know what you think you need to know.

The process of listening allows you to gain a sense of the contact’s experience and the information and insights they will need to move forward with their change initiative. Without allowing your contact to speak, you may miss something important that should influence the counsel you provide them.

Utilizing Listening Skills to Build Trust and Rapport

One of the most important skills for being a consultative seller is building trust and rapport. The more you establish trust, the more your contact will be willing to share with you. The act of listening closely with interest will help you build rapport. This is important for you to diagnose the client’s challenges and learn what you need to be able to provide your counsel, advice, and recommendations.

Listening Closely for What Is Not Being Said

If you want to master listening closely with interest, the first step is to listen and observe what is not being said. Mastering this most important consultative sales skill requires you to listen with real interest in what your client is sharing with you and what they are leaving out. It is important to listen closely with your ears, but you can also use your eyes to detect what your contact is saying with their body language and facial expressions.

The longer you practice listening with real interest, the greater your ability to recognize that your contacts are withholding something from you. What isn’t being said is often more important than what is being said. You may pick up on the fact your contact is concerned when they ask you a specific question, or you notice that they struggle to share details about something that seems important.

If you notice something isn’t being said, you can use a question to try to suss it out. But you might also choose to be patient and let your periods of silence cause the contact to share something.

The Art of Active Listening

I know a number of salespeople that lock their smartphone in their car as a way to ensure they can practice active listening. They worry about being distracted by a call, a text, or some notification. If you want to make certain your contact knows you are paying attention to what they are sharing, you can communicate this by not having a phone sitting next to you. Active listening is a critical sales skill for a consultative seller.

You need to concentrate on what is being said and what it means. You must also understand what is being said and what isn’t being said. When you believe something is missing, it may mean you need to work on trust. One of the challenges of active listening is that you have to respond to what you heard. It’s also important to remember what is being said. One important part of consultative selling is that it allows you to identify valuable insights about what your client needs or their concerns.

How To Prove You Are Listening Closely with Interest

You have to show you are listening. You can do this by nodding your head, maintaining eye contact, or by verbal affirmations like “I see,” or “tell me more about . . .,” or “go on.” You also prove you are listening closely with interest by asking clarifying questions that demonstrate your active engagement in the sales conversation, the only vehicle we have to create value for your contacts.

My younger sister is capable of saying nothing for a longer time that you might imagine. She gives her contacts with more room to talk. By the time the meeting is over she has learned what she needed to learn, with many of her contacts sharing things that no one else would share. I believe her ability to sit quietly makes it safe for them to share very personal information, including about how poor results at work impact them on a human level.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 6, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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