4 Important Tips to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

BY Kathy Crosett
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Are you struggling with your active listening skills? You may be if the following scenario sounds familiar. One of your reps, either on a Zoom call or during your in-​person one-​on-​one meeting, complains about something you’ve heard before. Maybe it’s a contact at an account with whom they can’t get along. Or they might be having trouble with the CRM again.

You’ve heard this story before. And as your rep is complaining, you reach for your phone and check your text messages or email. You might say something vaguely encouraging such as, “Keep trying.” Your rep leaves your office and then you might have the same meeting two weeks later.

At some point, you need to acknowledge that nothing will change unless you take action. You can turn around this situation by using these four important tips to improve your active listening skills:

  • Communication Style
  • Remove Judgement
  • Clarify
  • Work Together on a Solution

Communication Style

At some point, you’ll need to change your approach if you want the rep’s behavior to change. And often, the change will begin once you start using active listening. This style of listening is all about paying attention to what your rep is saying, as well as what they are not saying. You’ll have a better sense of knowing how your rep communicates if you have them take a sales skills assessment that is designed to reveal their behavioral and motivational tendencies.

Remove Judgement

If you’ve had tense exchanges with this rep in the past because they haven’t performed to your expectations, let that go. If this rep doesn’t work the way you prefer or isn’t into the same free time activities you enjoy, let that go as well. Your job as a manager isn’t to judge. You’ve been tasked with helping your reps improve their skills and active listening will play a key role in making that happen. When you express some empathy for their situation, you’re also showing you care about them as an individual.


As they are explaining their problem, don’t give in to negative thoughts about how you want them to stop whining and get back to work. Instead, rephrase what they are saying to pinpoint the actual problem. If they tell you a prospect is stalled mid-​funnel, ask questions. Get them to define stalled. Is the prospect not returning their calls? Or has the prospect told them they are pausing for the next few weeks? Once you clarify exactly what’s happening, you’re ready for the final phase of active listening.

Working Together on a Solution

The next step is critical to turning around the work situation for an employee who is clearly struggling. After listening to what they are saying, expressing empathy and concern, and pinpointing exactly what’s wrong, it’s time to work on a solution. Ask them for their suggestions about what to try next. Then come up with a few of your own. Encourage them to try each suggestion and to report back on the results.

Managing sales reps is a big challenge and you’ll have a better outcome if you invest in sales manager training. Once you learn how to upskill and manage each rep, they’ll be likely to say positive things about you. Here’s what one sales rep had to say about their manager in our Voice of the Sales Rep survey: “My manager was a very good communicator and knew the industry very well. They had great coaching suggestions and did troubleshooting with me when problems came up. Bottom line: They helped me to make more money.”

Active Listening Skills

You can improve your active listening skills by working on improving your communication style, removing judgement, clarifying, and working together on a solution. If you feel challenged in area of these areas, it may be time to enroll in a good sales manager training program.