Shut Up and Sell: 4 Ways to Practice Power Listening Blog Feature
Steve Bookbinder

By: Steve Bookbinder on January 12th, 2016

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Shut Up and Sell: 4 Ways to Practice Power Listening

Sales Tips | sales strategy

The true value of a sales call often has more to do with what you hear than what you say.

Just filling the room with the sound of your own voice can jeopardize the opportunity to gather valuable information from a customer or prospect. Any sales manager will tell you that what he/she primarily wants to know during a debrief is what the buyer had to say, as opposed to the seller.


Here are 4 keys to becoming a power listener:

1. Use “active” pauses.

It’s incredibly easy to just jump from one point to another during a sales pitch. After all, we’ve rehearsed (or should have) and just want to get every key point out there on the table.

So what happens?

Salespeople tend to rush through their recitation, giving the buyer little or no chance to react or respond to what’s being said.

Big mistake.

Actively and intentionally pausing between points opens the door for valuable feedback and often gets critical buyer objections out in the open. Not taking active pauses can also convey the idea that the seller really doesn’t care much about the buyer’s point of view—and that can kill a sale.

2. Ask questions that don’t necessarily have “binary” answers.

Nothing forces “active” listening more than probing questions.

The danger is that the question a seller might pose begs nothing more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Those binary answers make it more difficult to uncover the nuances of a buyer’s take on what’s being offered.

Feel free to use phrases such as “In your opinion...” or “From your point of view...” to set up your questions.

Gathering richer and deeper feedback is a critical part of getting the deal done. Great questioning can only speed up that process.

3. Restate what you hear to get clarity and amplification.

Doing this will automatically signal that you were listening to what the buyer had to say—a big step that says you really do care. It also gives you assurance that you’ve got an accurate version of the buyer’s position or take on various deal points.

Wondering later on about what a buyer said during a given meeting can become an obstacle to moving the deal along since you don’t really know where things stand on one or more key issues.

4. Use a buyer’s responses to guide the conversation.

Trial lawyers call this building a “line of questioning.” While a seller shouldn’t come across as a legal interrogator, there is still a need to let one question lead to another.

A thread of questions can address objections in a logical order and set the stage for a relatively painless close.

One tip: don’t try to ad lib or do this one on the fly. These questions need to be scripted in advance and tested for how well they flow in the desired direction.   

A good measure of success for a given sales call is how much you learned as opposed to how much you may have shared. It’s up to you, the seller, to take meaningful steps to make that happen.

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About the Author


Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

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About Steve Bookbinder

Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.

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