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Posted: April 23, 2014

Close your mouth to close the sale

Listening is the key to success

Liz Wendling

Contrary to popular belief, selling isn’t a profession for people with the gift of gab; it’s for people with the ability to listen. Not listening is an occupational hazard for salespeople.

Have you ever noticed that the same letters that make up the word listen – L-I-S-T-E-N also make up the word silent – S-I-L-E-N-T?  Silence draws people out. It’s in the silence where you get the answers you need.

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is listening fully and attentively. Giving someone your full attention and actively listening to what is being said is palpable. Think about how exhausting interrupting, making assumptions and jumping to conclusions are? 

Listening is not only a skill; it’s a habit of good communication. Listening is the key to mutual understanding, which forms the basis for successful business and personal relationships. Through the process of listening, you enhance your communication, and allow less chance for misunderstandings and mix-ups. More importantly, you give the other person respect and validation. What a magnificent foundation of a great relationship; a sense of shared understanding.

Almost everyone believes that they listen effectively and would consider themselves a good listener. Very few people think they need to develop their listening skills. Most of us are terrible listeners. It's not because listening effectively is so difficult. It’s that most of us have never developed the habits that make us effective listeners.

There is a lot more to listening than just keeping your mouth closed. Listening and asking questions establishes a positive relationship and builds trust. When you let customers speak and you really pay attention to what they are saying, they feel recognized and heard.

Traditional selling has taught salespeople to listen closely but only listen for “buying signals.” Then as soon as they hear one, jump right in and start selling. This is precisely the moment when salespeople quit listening, step on the gas, and start to close the sale. Customers will nod and pretend to listen nicely. In the back of their minds they cannot wait to get rid of you and say “I need to think about it.” You have just talked your way out of another sale!

A high price is paid for poor listening skills. To listen actively and thoroughly takes concentration, hard work, patience, and the ability to interpret your customers’ words and summarize them. Listening is both a complex process and a learned skill and requires conscious effort.

You cannot multi-task speaking and listening. If you’re talking, you’re not listening. This rule also applies to the chatter inside your head. If you’re thinking intently about what you want to say, you’re not listening to what is being said. Listening costs you nothing but not listening costs you the sale. The choice is yours.

When used effectively, listening is a strategic sales tool that top salespeople develop for maximum results. Like any new selling approach or habit, this one will take a little time and practice before it becomes second nature. Try it out on your next sales appointment. Close your mouth, open your ears! You will find that you will close more sales more quickly through listening than through talking. Good listeners earn more money than good talkers.

Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.

Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.

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Readers Respond

This is a great reminder that we're not hear to yack. We're here to serve! And we serve by listening. By Michelle Lopez on 2014 04 28
Spot on Liz! When you can relax and listen so deeply that all that exists is your client/customer speaking and you’re absorbing everything at the conscious and subconscious level, you will have learned to listen like the best sales people (those that make 500% to 1000% more than average). It’s a key to high-performance selling! By TC North on 2014 04 28
Thanks Liz for your insight. I try so hard to be a better listener. I can tell right away when I am not. I hear myself formulating my answers before someone is done talking. I catch myself and pay attention. By Marlene on 2014 04 23
Great you stated, Listening is key in building trust and creating a solid foundation to a business relationship. I can always improve in my listening skills. By Sam Dobbins on 2014 04 23
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