The 4 Key Listening Habits of Successful Salespeople

BY Tim Londergan
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Ask your salespeople: “Is listening something that you DO? Or is it something that you ARE?”

Listening preferences are inherent to us all. We have biases and habits that can make listening more or less productive and that can help or hurt our sales performance. As your sales team looks to you for advice, it is essential that you address the basics of the listening habits of successful salespeople.

Few negotiators would argue the value of good listening habits. Skillful, active listening can calm tensions, break the impasse, and get the information needed to build creative deals. Many salespeople overestimate their ability to deploy this key negotiation skill, while also lacking an accurate understanding of the basics of their own listening style. That is why your team needs to be aware of:

The 4 Key Listening Habits of Successful Salespeople

Listening is a trainable skill which, if optimized, can significantly impact business outcomes. Hearing happens in our ears and listening, or translating what we hear, happens in our brains.

The best way for your sales people to improve listening skills is to practice active listening’. This is a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. Listening is a skill set that must be combined with the exceedingly important emotion of CARING.

Active listening is a two-​way street. Participating in listening requires constant interaction and observation. It is important, if possible, to maintain eye contact. This can be described as listening between the lines. Good listeners participate in a version of ‘call and respond’ with their subject. For instance, when you hear: “I want …” or “I need…" then ask “Why?” Or listen for the emotion, then draw the prospect out with: “How do you feel about that?” “Tell me more” is a default response that should become a habit for active listeners.

The listening habits of successful salespeople can be identified in these four basics:

  • Connective listeners display empathy and will note how others are paying attention and reacting to the information being shared. They may nod, make eye contact, and appear agreeable to a speaker regardless of how they feel about the information being shared. They are socially intuitive and can pick up and respond to subtle cues.
  • Reflective listening brings a sense of expertise, depth and meaning to interactions. The Reflective listener will focus on what the interaction means for them. This type of listening helps groups stay grounded, on task, and in touch with the meaning, purpose or application behind whatever is being discussed.
  • Analytical. People with an Analytical listening style focus on facts, data, and measurable information. They filter what they hear through their interest in results and facts. Individuals with this listening style shy away from gray areas.
  • Conceptual listening welcomes a diversity of perspectives and considerations simultaneously. This type of listener draws new connections, offers fresh insight, and highlights new angles on an issue that others may not have considered.

Your Team Members' Listening Habits

Understanding and identifying the listening habits of your individual team members can trigger a radical shift in the way you address your coaching practice. As you recognize the various types of listening skills your team members possess, your coaching can take on a new, more customized, level of expertise. By observing others in conversation, you can start to appreciate these distinctions and make suggestions for where they can improve their listening skill set.