Getting Paid to Listen

Feb. 26, 2002
Getting Paid to Listen
Getting Paid to Listen

Is there a job out there where you get paid big bucks to listen? I mean sitting with someone over a coffee and just listening? You may guess a psychiatrist or lawyer and that would be correct. The truth is, all of us in the sales profession get paid big bucks to listen.


One problem for many of us is we think we get paid to talk. We polish the pitch, we get praise for our glib tongue. The truth is that we make far more for listening than we do for talking. The good news is that we can develop our listening skills. Here are some listening tips for professional listeners. Give them a try and see if your sales don’t increase dramatically.

                Make up your mind to listen. The first step as always is to make a commitment to listen better. Decide to practice, to observe your performance with customers and to improve your listening skills.

                Value people—all of them. Next, make up your mind to value people. The people you talk to pay your check. If you are thinking they are old or stupid or poor or lookers, you will not value their feedback and you will not listen. Make sure you value each customer as a client worth listening to for every detail.

                Value feedback. When the customer talks, do you see it as an interruption of your presentation or as a roadmap to the sale? Learn to see feedback, questions and even objections as sign posts that will allow you to tailor the sale to the customer and accomplish your goal. Many of us stop customers from talking by the way we react when they do. This behavior will kill a lot of sales you could be making. Honestly look at your past sales and see if you are valuing and encouraging all customer feedback.

                Realize the benefits of listening. Once a day, or before each sale, sell yourself on the benefits of listening. There are benefits to talking too much. You feel in control, you feel smart and you have no time to feel fear. You have to make a conscious decision to listen and to realize that listening allows us to gain the customer’s confidence, to find out what they are interested in and to tailor the presentation to their needs. Listening also allows you to correctly sense what is holding them back from buying and when to close. Yes, great closers are all great listeners.

                Practice listening. Just as no one learns to play the piano without practice, no one learns to be a world class listener without practice. How do you practice listening? Watch movies with characters that are good listeners and notice their style. Practice listening with your spouse, friends or other salespeople. Get them to critique and give you tips. Studies show women are particularly good listeners, so try to get a woman’s point of view on your style.

                Prepare to listen. Before you meet with a client, ask yourself and maybe write out what you want to find out about these customers. Don’t go in without planning. At the end of the sale, check and see how many of the questions you intended to find out about the clients did you actually get full answers to? Preparation is important in good listening.

                Set a listening goal. Before you begin to sell, set a goal for listening time. Many great salespeople say you should be listening 70 percent of the time and talking 30 percent. I know that may sound wacky, but the wackier it sounds, the more you may need to work on your listening skills. Have a goal for listening and practice until you can consistently achieve it.

                Get into a listening posture. To get the customer to talk, you have to look interested. That means being relaxed, looking at them as they talk. It means not fidgeting, looking around or looking at your watch. It also means having a listening posture. Lean forward slightly toward the talker. Have a relaxed and open posture. All these factors determine if the customer believes you care and want to listen.

                Take notes. This is extremely important. Nothing makes the customer feel you value their wants, desires, problem and opinions more than when you take notes. It helps you concentrate and recall and it says the customer and their needs are important to you.

Take notes. It costs so little and means so much.

                Keep them talking. If you want the client to talk, you can do it by using extenders. These are phrases like, “Go on,” “Tell me more” and “How do you mean?” and many other phrases that encourage the customer to continue. Use pauses to encourage them to talk. Many studies show that men and particularly women are not through talking when the salesperson jumps in and talks.


These are some techniques that great closers tell us help them listen. A recent study showed that the number one thing customers are looking for is “a salesperson who listens and understands them.” The seller who fits that bill gets the say and gets well paid for listening. Does that describe you? If not, you could be making a lot more money.        

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