Weekly Sales Tips: Strategic Listening

Perhaps you’re easily distracted. Or maybe you’re a good listener. But what does it mean to listen strategically? 

Curious as to how you rate your listening skills? Go ahead and give yourself a 1 to 10 rating. One, horrible listener. Can’t hardly figure anything out. 10, it is your superpower. Personally, I’m a 10. Except when I’m a one. I know I have the ability to listen really well, but I don’t always have the desire to do so. Just me?

In sales, however, this is a non-optional skill. We must listen, and we must listen strategically.

What does “strategic listening” even mean?

It means a few things. The first thing it means is that we listen to understand. Stephen Covey puts it this way, “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to respond.” Now, this is not about hearing. We do that subconsciously and automatically.

The question is, what makes its way into the cognitive part of our brain? You see, we don’t consciously hear everything. That would drive us crazy. So much of our lives would be a noisy jungle. Our brain has the ability to filter out what we consider to be irrelevancies.

What’s the problem inherent in that concept? Well, for one thing, what if I deemed that the things being shared in a conversation are irrelevant? It’s really easy to filter stuff out, but I might miss a critical piece of information. Beyond that, if I have the ability to filter out what I hear, it means that I can pay attention to other things, including my own wandering thoughts.

Not sure about you but my thoughts definitely wander. Like, when I’m playing hockey, and I’m on the bench in between shifts, and I start noticing that the rink is sometimes used for curling, and I started wondering how the abuse that the hockey players make on a sheet of ice affects the way that a curling stone slides, and if they have to push brooms even harder to make up for that, then they… Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. I was talking about wandering minds.

How do I improve my strategic listening skills?

  1. Listen for shared meaning. That means I’m actively trying to find commonalities. I’m trying to find connection points. I want to find the similarities that will allow both of us to drive deeper into the conversation.
  2. Listen to understand assumptions. That means I’m not just listening to the words, I’m listening to the message behind the words. I want to know what my customer is saying. I also want to know why they are saying it. What assumptions are they making? What is their frame of reference?
  3. The two-second pause. I want you to get into the habit of pausing to let the message fully set in. That little pause at the end of a buyer’s comment will actually allow you to do several things. First, it gives you time for the message to fully sink in. Second, it gives you the entire message. Sometimes the important words are at the end. And third, it proves your care and concern.

    BONUS TIP: Once you master the two-second pause, try an even longer pause. People rarely run out of things to say and you’ll gain even more valuable knowledge)

Strategic listening takes practice, but the payoff is incredible.

Until next time my friends. Learn more to earn more.

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About the Author: Mike Wise