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Become a Better Listener | jaconsulting.co.uk Man's face with finger to mouth to stay quiet
Are You Really Listening To Clients?

Becoming a better listener demonstrates you care about your client and their issues.

Are you REALLY listening to your clients, or just waiting to speak? After all, you are going to be valued as an adviser for your knowledge and expertise in your specialist area of complex sales, aren’t you? Yes…but no!

Are you being curious about your potential client’s issues, or are you eager to push your services at them in the way you have always done?

Curiosity may have killed the cat (!) but it is vital when selling in any complex sales situations, including B2B, large scale deals and professional services, and that means you have to listen to what is being said and also what is not being said. This requires you to hold back and concentrate on the other person. And that’s not always easy to do.

Noise interference

We live in an increasingly fast-paced and invasive business environment where the volume of distractions are high. As you read this blog, just notice the intensity of thoughts zipping through your mind, the email or social media message ‘pings’ and the volume of noise interferences such as open plan offices.

When you’re busy multi-tasking and someone talks in your ear, just how much of what they said did you actually take in? You may have heard the words, but did you really listen?

We’ve all likely had some tuition in reading, writing and perhaps speaking skills too, but rarely in how to listen effectively. How would you rate your own listening skills? How would you rate your colleagues’ listening skills? Or those of your clients? When did you last get feedback on your listening techniques? Before today, did you ever think about how you listen?

Why being a better listener is important

Ultimately better listening facilitates good communication, greater understanding, avoids potential confusion and diffuses conflict.

It’ll aid faster learning about a client’s issues, help you understand another person’s viewpoint, strengthen the ability to collaborate, help you build relationships with others, strengthen teamworking and lead to higher productivity. In some instances, there could be times when safety may depend on it.

Take time to truly be a better listener

Too often people involved with complex sales focus on the ‘selling’ and not on the ‘buying’. To be an effective seller means getting into the world of your buyers through better listening.

Concentrating to listen is hard work, but it could mean the difference between winning or losing a potential piece of client work.

Successful sellers in complex sales do not rush to ‘solve’ clients issues based on assumptive information, they will take time to truly listen better without feeling the need to present credentials or services. They build a detailed understanding of the client’s needs and also their desire to buy. Through better listening they are able to ask better sales questions which help the client indicate they’re wanting to take some action. Failing to listen effectively may not only lose the potential work, but it could also destroy the client relationship.

3 steps to becoming a better listener

  • Put aside distractions – give the client your undivided attention. Be in the mood to want to listen. Make eye contact. Put away your mobile devices unless they’re being used to support the conversation either for recording notes or helping prompt probing questions. Don’t be tempted to answer emails. Don’t constantly check your watch, unless you’re helping keep track of the client’s available time or else the client might think you’re disinterested or impatient.
  • Really listen with curiosity – show respect for what the client has to say and listen without interrupting, and don’t let any non-verbal actions betray you. Demonstrating you are listening doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with everything the other person says. Respond to the client’s statements thoughtfully, use summarising to playback what you’ve heard is correct. Pay attention to their facial expressions and tone of voice and any other cues which express extra (or different) information to the verbal.
  • Demonstrate genuine interest in the issues without making assumptions or rushing to provide answers – put yourself in the shoes of your client, understand their perspective of what’s worrying them. Be careful not to incorrectly interpret or assume you know what the client is going to say, let them speak. Don’t jump to conclusions and delay any judgement. Investigate; ask pertinent questions which clarify or delve deeper into the client’s issues. The same words may mean something different to you and to someone else. Be sure the client’s ‘I’m unhappy’ means the same as your level of ‘I’m unhappy’. Or that your definition of “soon” matches that of your client. Equally, different words may be used to say the same thing – but without clarification, in the midst of a discussion, words might be interpreted differently. Remember, ‘I’m unhappy’ doesn’t mean ‘I want to do something about problem X.’ You can always challenge what has been said to you when you fully understand what you’ve heard.

Becoming a better listener will help you demonstrate that you care about your client or customer and their issues. Next time you are on the phone or in a meeting, ask yourself ‘Am I REALLY listening?’

Become a Better Listener resources:

How to Become a Better Listener – Urges leaders to become better listeners. Harvard Business Review, December 21, 2021.  https://hbr.org/2021/12/how-to-become-a-better-listener

Steps to Relationship Heaven – This article covers the three steps to Relationship Heaven and the second stage stresses the value of listening: http://davidtovey.com/three-steps-to-relationship-heaven/

Listening Effectively – Includes great chapters on the process of listening and the 5 different types of listening. Kline, J.A.. Air University Press. 1996. Reprinted August 2008. https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/AUPress/Books/AU-4.PDF (Accessed January 16, 2024)

Active Listening – This article focuses on ways to actively listen: https://www.allbusiness.com/active-listening-is-an-essential-sales-tool-34251-1.html

Why Listening is Hard – A video clip focusing on why listening in sales is hard to do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpxteBi1K58

Ask Better Sales Questions – Successful sellers in complex sales situations take the time to learn how to ask questions with purpose. https://jaconsulting.co.uk/ask-better-sales-questions


John Moss

Email: johnmoss@jaconsulting.co.uk

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmoss1

About John Moss – John’s extensive background in sales, marketing and general management has been followed by three decades in management consultancy. John is fiercely committed to helping individuals and businesses grow and succeed; his talent for spotting what needs to be done, his tenacity for making sure things then happen, his commitment to growing long-term business relationships and his ability to impart that knowledge to other people make him an inspirational consultant, leader and coach.



And a final thought

At JA Consulting we help businesses and individuals take the theory of selling and put it into practice. We’re here to help you learn how to spot and grow business opportunities, how to develop strong and transferable selling skills and how to generate robust account management. To find out more, talk to us or email me at johnmoss@jaconsulting.co.uk

If you have any questions, our team is ready to help. Contact us….