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5 tips for active listening - creating a better sales discovery process

As we have talked about in our last post, the discovery process is one of the main pillars in a sales process. Last time we spoke about the significance of asking your opponents the perfect questions – now, we want to focus on the opposite – active listening to what your clients have to say.


What we have learnt from asking the right questions:

Our purpose is to find out as much as we can about what´s important to our client by having an eye-to-eye conversation. With that information, you can create a solution specifically for them.

Active Listening

But as we know, a conversation not only consists of asking questions, but also listening to the given answers. Only when you work on your listening skills, you can understand your opponent´s needs and really work with them in a constructive way. It may be hard, especially when your customer can´t talk properly about their issues.

As a sales representative, you have to become an active and efficient listener in order to actually understand the information you will have to work with – both verbally and non-verbally. These five things are relevant when you are trying to improve your active listening skills:

1. Subtext and Context

You should not only pay attention to what is being said, but also how it is being delivered. When your client, for example, brings up a certain topic more than usual, that could mean you should focus on that area and give it more thought.

2. Vocal Qualities

Pay attention to the details in your conversation. How does your opponent´s tone change, how fast do they speak? Something as insignificant as a sigh could suggest stress, while an increased pace could mean that they´re nervous. When you notice that they are way more serious when talking about a particular topic, that may be a source to their issues. Ask follow-up-questions to make sure you´re not just assuming things about your customer, such as “I feel like this is particularly important to you. Do you want to elaborate on this so I can get a deeper understanding?”

3. Body Language

When you speak with your client – whether it´s online or face to face - look at the way they sit, engage in eye contact, gesticulate, and other factors that could reveal their emotions. If they have their arms crossed, for example, it could indicate that they feel the need to defend themselves and therefore signals you to work on gaining your opponent´s trust.

4. Specific Words:

People mostly choose the words they say on purpose. Our clients often use industry- or company specific jargon to put across their issues and worries. Top sales professionals notice the specific terms and are able to include them in their discussion with their client. By doing that, they signal to their opponent that they understand and listen to them.

5. Summarization and Validation

When you conclude your conversation with a short summary, it can relieve your clients from their worries about trusting you with their business. You could say something such as “Do I understand correctly that you´re looking for fulfillment details about the product with a strong focus on timing and ROI?” to indicate that you were paying attention to what they were saying. This makes it a two-way-conversation, not just one where you are trying to close the sale.

Improving your listening skills can help to make the discovery process a true success and therefore achieve the most efficient solution for you and your opponent. When you ask the right questions and listen to what your customer has to say, this will help you to build your basis for being a top-performing sales professional.

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