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Are you Really Listening? Use Active Listening Skills to Serve Your Clients Better and Generate More New Business
By Eugenie Brown, Sandler Sales Institute

We all know that the best way to find out what your client or potential client needs is to ask questions. But even asking all the right questions is wasted if you don't hear what he or she says, either in words or, more subtly, in tones or partial hints.  Being a good listener requires more than just keeping quiet while the other person is talking. Do you hear everything that is being said? Do you understand it completely?

Here are some tips on how to become a more effective listener:

Focus in on the basic message.
Try to pinpoint the main ideas the person is expressing. Ask yourself what the speaker is trying to say. If you're not sure, ask. "Bill, I believe what I heard is … . Am I on track?"

Understand what is being said.
Keep asking yourself if you understand what is being said. If you don't, ask for clarification — and keep asking until you are sure you fully understand. "Bill, I'm not sure I understand how this relates to that, can you help me out?" What you don't understand, you can't recall. Additionally, if you don't understand what is being said, your mind is more likely to wander, and your listening effectiveness diminishes.

Don't get distracted.
Don't let trivial things like the speaker's appearance or random noises divert your attention from what he or she is saying. Listen to the speaker's whole sentence. Listen not only for content, but context. Anytime you catch yourself being distracted by something that draws your attention away from what the speaker is saying, make a conscious effort to focus back on the words.

Listen with your "gut."
The speaker's tone and body language will impart meaning. The unconscious mind quickly picks up these subtle clues and leaves us with a particular feeling about the speaker. When you have a "feeling" about someone after a conversation — that they are sincere, that they are hiding something, that they can't be trusted, etc. — it is a sign that your unconscious mind has put two and two together and come up with an evaluation.

Become personally absorbed in what is being said.
You can't listen effectively if you are only "going through the motions." Every subject has some interesting angle, some impact on you or something you can learn. In order to uncover those elements, you must first abandon your prejudiced or preconceived ideas. If you enter a conversation with the notion that the other person has nothing of interest or importance to say, you will miss what is important.

Get involved.
To keep your active attention on what is being said, offer comments. If the situation permits, offer your own perspective on what is being said. Ask a question or relate a relevant story that reinforces what the person is saying, or represents a different point of view. Ask yourself how what the person is saying relates to other situations or experiences.

In summary, listen proactively.
There is more to listening than just passively hearing the words someone is speaking.  Effective listeners are focused and seek to understand the speaker. They listen with their unconscious as well as their conscious attention.  Active listeners look for new information and become involved by asking relevant questions.  This is a lot to remember, and it takes practice, so you may want to take one step at a time and try to work on one listening skill in your next conversation.  Then work on the next step in the next conversation, and so on.  Over time, you will see the results of your more active listening in increased customer satisfaction and new business.

(Eugenie Brown is a sales/management trainer and coach with The Sandler Sales Institute. Ms. Brown can be reached at 714-849-949 or Further information is available at

Copyright 2002 Sandler Sales Institute


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