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How active listening can increase sales and improve productivity

How active listening can increase sales and improve productivity

Learning to listen beyond a customer’s words to hear their frustrations and aspirations can help businesses generate better-quality leads and reduce dissatisfaction while boosting sales and productivity.

For more than 21 years, I’ve taught effective communication to everyone from families to business owners and CEOs. Over that time, I’ve found the biggest challenge for most people is to put aside judgement or agenda to truly listen with empathy, and provide the speaker with their complete and undivided attention.

Running a business is a complex undertaking, and sometimes business owners offer a solution before they fully understand their customer’s needs. This can result in:

  1. Lost sales
  2. Too much time spent with people that were never going to buy in the first place
  3. Dissatisfied customers and
  4. Refunds, exchanges and amendments on purchased products and services.

Active listening can help businesses avoid these outcomes. Listening assertively enables you to perceive both the words in an exchange and the feelings behind them, allowing for much greater understanding and empathy. It can help salespeople better match products and services to the needs of the customer, allowing the business to win more sales and waste less time on non-productive tasks.

Three modes of engagement

When someone speaks to us, we can engage with them in three different ways. We can:

  • Hear only what they say while we prepare our response.
  • Listen to what they say and then prepare our response.
  • Temporarily put aside our beliefs, opinions and thoughts, and attempt to understand what the other party’s words and feelings are trying to communicate.

The third option requires you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective, even if you don’t agree with them.

Listening at this level can be challenging; it involves selflessly putting aside our own agenda and giving our complete and undivided attention so that we may become a blank sounding board for the other person.

Doing so enables us, the listener, to better understand what the speaker is really trying to tell us. It can also allow the speaker to clarify their needs as they hear what they are saying reflected back to them. This type of exchange can be very effective in a sales or consulting situation, as it provides an efficient way to discover the needs of the client.

Non-verbal communication

Active listening involves using your eyes as well as your ears. Body language and tone can reveal as much about what someone is communicating as their chosen words. Learning to perceive these non-verbal cues is essential if you want to understand what your customer is really trying to tell you.

Once again, it requires the listener to abandon their preconceptions for a moment and be aware of the finer details of the exchange. Reading between the lines in this way can make it much simpler to understand a customer’s needs and give them what they need.

Listening well takes practice

Listening is not a skill many people have had training in. Most assume they are able to do it naturally without any instruction or practice. But can you imagine trying to play a game of tennis or a round of golf for the first time without having had any lessons or practice? Well that’s what it’s like for some people when they are told: “Just listen!”

Like any skill, you need to practise active listening before you can master it, but it will reward your efforts handsomely. Learning how to listen assertively does more than save time – used well, it can help you create and maintain wonderful relationships with your customers and clients because everyone loves to be heard and understood.

Encouraging openness and transparency is just as useful within the workplace as when talking to customers. Learn more about opening the lines of business communication.

Phil Schibeci is a renowned corporate and keynote speaker who has empowered organisations and individuals, both personally and professionally, to achieve peak performance in public speaking, communication and leadership.

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