Learn to listen in two words…Shut up!

BY Jeffrey Gitomer
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It's amazing how much you can learn by just keeping quiet. People think you're smarter if you're quiet. When you keep quiet, people will often ask if everything's okay.

You learn more by listening than by speaking.

Effective listening leads to sales, lots of them. Listening is arguably the most important aspect of the selling process, yet it's usually the weakest part of a sales professional's skills. How well do you listen?

Answer each statement with Rarely — Sometimes — or Always:

I allow speakers to complete sentences.

I make sure I understand the other person's point of view before  responding.

I listen for the important points.

I try to understand the speaker's feelings.

I visualize my response before speaking.

I visualize the solution before speaking.

I am in control, relaxed, calm when listening.

I use listening noises (um, gee, I see, oh).

I take notes when someone else is speaking.

I listen with an open mind.

I listen even if the other person is not interesting.

I listen even if the other person is a jerk.

I look at the person I'm listening to.

I am patient when I listen.

I ask questions to be sure I understand.

I have no distractions when I listen.

How I Rate as an Effective Listener. How many "Always" did you get?

14 — 16      You're excellent!

11 — 13      You're good – but need help in a few areas.

7 — 10        You're fair, probably think you know it all, and could increase your income significantly with skill-​building help.

4 — 6          You're poor, not listening at all.

1 — 3          You're deaf or in need of a hearing aid.

Turn any of the above listening weaknesses into listening goals by substituting "I will" for "I," or "I will be" for "I am."

Effective listening requires regularly practiced skill-​building techniques to improve.

Here are eight that will help. Shhh…

  • Look right at the person you're listening to.
  • Focus your attention on the words and their meaning.
  • Limit distractions (even change locations to listen better).
  • Visualize the situation being described to you.
  • Visualize your response or solution before responding.
  • Listen with an open mind. No pre-prejudice.
  • Listen to the content — not necessarily how it's being delivered.
  • Use occasional listening noises… wow, gosh, then what, really, that's horrible, great, that's too bad, I didn't know that, I see, gee.


A person who seems to have all the answers, usually isn't listening.

A person who interrupts, isn't listening (or at least is not a good listener).

How hard is it to listen? For some it's impossible.

Test your listening self-discipline:

  • Try being silent for one hour.
  • Try not talking in a group of people.
  • Try not talking at a party.

Here are ten listening-​building skills you can practice:

Write things down as others are speaking. Jot down a word rather than interrupt the other person's thought…

  • to keep the thought.
  • to impress the other person.
  • to be polite.
  • to keep listening instead of interrupting.

Verify the situation (sometimes) before giving feedback.

Qualify the situation with questions before giving feedback or responding.

Don't interrupt the next time you think you know the answer.

Go for an hour without speaking.

Next time you eat with a group, don't talk for the first half hour.

Ask questions to clarify.

Ask questions to show interest or concern.

Ask questions to get more information or learn.

Ask yourself if you're listening the way you want to be listened to.

Listen with the intent to understand before you listen with the intent to respond.

Listening is my toughest lesson to give. First, because I'm often a poor listener myself. Almost every sale I ever lost, I can attribute to poor listening or poor questioning. Second, because I can't change in one or two columns what took you 20 years to create.


Toward Error Free Positive Communication, from The Sales Bible. Don't let poor communication keep you from the sale. Just go to www​.gitomer​.com, Click Access GitBit/​RedBit at the top of the screen,  register if you;re a first time user and enter the words "ERROR FREE".

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