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"They won't care how much you know until they know how much you care."    --Anonymous

Listening is the first critical competency of a direct seller.  We often talk about how important it is to tell our story, but sometimes we forget that we need to listen to the other person's story FIRST. 

By taking time to learn and appreciate the stories of  customers and other stakeholders, you can accomplish several things:

  • you convey that you care about them/their needs and build trust, which is the key to any relationship.

  • you learn what it is they are interested in, so you don't spend a lot of time talking about irrelevant items.

  • you learn details about them and their needs, so you can customize your offerings specifically to them.

  • you can refer back to things they mention in future meetings, which shows that you are on the ball!

Listening is an active process, and a skill that can be honed and improved.  Below are some tips to help you develop your listening skills, and ultimately, become a better salesperson.

Be Prepared

If you know that you will be talking to someone in advance, do a little research and find out some things about them, their interests, their job, etc.  Being able to talk about something that interests the other person can make a conversation smoother, more effective, and more enjoyable.

Remove Distractions

When you are listening to something important that someone is telling you, it helps to turn off your cell phone, and go to a quiet space and shut the door.  Distractions such as texts, email, music, TV, and people coming in and out will inhibit your ability to focus in on what the other person is trying to convey to you.

Don't Do Anything Else

Although we all like to think we can multi-task, it is a terrible idea if you are trying to listen to someone.  If you answer the phone, look at email, eat, or engage in other activity while listening, you will send the message that listening to the other person isn't very important to you. 

Don't Interrupt - Respond After the Person Finishes

Let the other person talk as long as they need to without interrupting.  Sometimes people just need to tell you how they feel, and if you jump right in and interrupt, they feel cut off and unheard.  When they are finished, you can ask meaningful questions.  Good questions are ones that clarify what has been said, solicit the opinion of the other person on how things should be handled, and demonstrate that you are engaged with that person.

Make Sure Your Body Language Reflects Openness and Attention

There are certain ways of using body language that can make the other person feel more comfortable.  Make eye contact with the person, and nod to indicate that you understand what is being said.  Smile if it is appropriate.  Assume a stance that is similar to the other person's. 

Try To Put Yourself In The Other Person's Shoes

When you are listening to someone else, it is important to suspend your own mental reality and try to understand what it is like to be the other person.  We can never wholly understand what it is like to be someone else, but trying does make a positive difference.  When you try to see something from someone else's perspective you become more empathetic, and the discussion can become more fruitful.

Don't Try To Think of a Response While Someone Else is Talking

Devote all your attention to listening.  If you are trying to formulate a response while the person is talking, you will likely miss some of what is being said.  True listening is not about posturing, or winning an argument.  It is about truly hearing what the talker wants to convey.

Listen Between the Lines

Sometimes it is important to hear what isn't being said as well as what is being said.  If a person is avoiding something in a conversation, it is important to recognize that.  Paying attention to the other person's body language can sometimes clue you in to the fact that there is something that isn't being said.  The difficult things that people are reluctant to say are often the most important things that need to be heard.

Repeat Back The Main Points At The End of the Conversation

At the end of a conversation, it is good to summarize the main points to make sure that you have understood everything correctly.  It also demonstrates that you have been paying attention, and that you care about the discussion. 






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