But since the gift of gab is so highly prized, a lot of mid-level salespeople forget that it’s actually the ability to listen that will propel them to the top. Experts have crunched the numbers—on phone calls, top-producing salespeople spend 43% of the call talking, meaning their prospect is chatting 57% of the time. Average and lower-producing sales people were dominating the call, talking for 60 to 75% of the time.
Quick stats may not tell the entire story. But think about the one-on-one conversations you have every day, both in professional settings and beyond. Chances are you’re not too impressed when the other person commandeers the time, doing a performative little song and dance without giving you much opportunity to get a word in.
It’s far more energizing to have a back-and-forth where you’re interested in each other’s thoughts and walk away with a little more insight about what makes that person tick. That type of interaction is called active listening, and it’s exactly the kind that drives sales.
If you’re a sales manager, you probably already practice active listening every day, even if you didn’t know the strategy had name. But in order to help inspire it in your sales team, it’s helpful to gain a better understanding of the concept. Keep reading for our breakdown of active listening, plus tools on using it to accelerate sales at any stage of your business:
What is active listening?
Active listening is a practice of listening that prioritizes attentiveness and engagement throughout a conversation, as well as retaining information to consider and reflect upon later.
To further understand active listening, it can be helpful to remember what it isn’t.
Active listening is NOT simply waiting your turn to talk.
Too often, people think listening means staying quiet while someone else is talking, eagerly awaiting your turn to share an anecdote, stat, or point you’ve had on your backburner since earlier in the conversation. But this isn’t actually responding to what the person you’re talking to is currently saying, a move that comes off as disrespectful and dismissive even if you didn’t mean it to be.
↳To actively listen rather than wait your turn to offer a pre-planned response:try not to prepare any response in your head before the other person is done speaking. A few second’s pause to gather your thoughts before responding is far better than spouting out a canned response that is no longer relevant to the topic at hand.
Active listening is NOT becoming defensive.
It’s perfectly fine to disagree with a point someone is making—or, during a sales conversation, to want to immediately defend a product or initiative that a customer might be skeptical of. But jumping to a hasty defense can show that you’re aggressively trying to uphold your reputation or are dismissing a potentially legitimate complaint, rather than demonstrating you’re always trying to acquire the knowledge that will help your business evolve and improve.
↳To actively listen rather than jump to a hasty defense:think of every conversation as an information-gathering session rather than a personal attack. You may not agree with every point made, but if you can calmly take in and reflect on all the information instead of wanting to come out on top, you’ll be able to better put customer minds at ease.
Active listening in sales: how does it help?
Active listening is helpful in all areas of life, but particularly in sales, where so much relies on responding to customer needs. Here are just a few ways being an active listener will boost sales:
Forge personal connections:In an era of increasing automation, prospects want not only to feel like they’re talking to a human, but to one who is actively engaged in meeting their super specific needs. Separate yourself from your competitors by making each sales call a chance to boost rapport, build trust, and give both parties to learn more about each other.
Solve actual problems:Too often, sales people list off specs of what they’re selling before learning if their prospects even need those features. Active listening, on the other hand, leads to conversations where you can unlock the actual needs they have, and present them with a personalized, satisfying solution.
Optimize time:Actively listening doesn’t have to mean hours-long conversations. In fact, you might be surprised how it actually saves time. When a sales team actively listens, they’re not repeating useless information or throwing in irrelevant anecdotes—you’re effectively using each precious moment to build client relationships.
Enhance future development:Even if active listening doesn’t land an automatic sale, it’s not a total loss. When you and your team actively listen, you’ll learn more about the reasons prospects or current clients turn elsewhere. Taking in that information can help you design better products or highlight different aspects of your services going forward.
There’s not-so-great news about active listening: it’s rare. Some studies suggest most people list with just 25% efficiency. But there’s also great news about active listening: it’s a completely teachable, learnable skill. Anyone can become an active listener at any point in their life, and any manager can give their team the tools they need to do so.
Here are just a few ways you can be that manager, with the help of Ringover’s resources:
It’s never too early to start encouraging active listening. Outline active listening principles on Day 1, and have your team run through tons of sales call simulations where you or their team members offer suggestions on better active listening.
↳How can Ringover help with training?Ringover offers call monitoring solutions that allow you to record calls. First, this helps you listen to early trainee calls and provide helpful feedback. Plus, you can record calls from your top active listening sellers, and use them as training tools. Hearing a few tricks of the trade from your company’s leaders is a great way for new hires to learn to apply active listening to their own personal sales style.
Encourage getting comfortable on video.
Most salespeople forge better connections in person as opposed to online, but that’s not as possible as it used to be. Done right, though, video can be just as effective as an in-person meeting. Put your own active listening skills to work to figure out where their insecurities on video lie, and design personalized training sessions that help to improve those weaknesses.
↳How can Ringover help with video sales calls?Ringover understands the importance of high-quality video calls—if your sales strategy relies on video connections, you can’t settle for anything less. Plus, with video collaboration tools that meet a wide variety of team needs, you can schedule remote team video meetings that help your sales hires organically improve their onscreen comfort levels.
Focus is one of the most important parts of active listening. A distraction as seemingly small as the ping of an instant message can take either parties completely out of the conversation, even just momentarily.
↳How can Ringover help eliminate distractions?When appropriate, Ringover’s easy interface makes it easy for teams to multi-task. But it can also be the high-quality video interface that takes over the screen, allowing anyone to concentrate fully on the current conversation. And don’t forget that you can drill active listening skills into your team. If they ever seem distracted while you’re on a team call, call them out to demonstrate that lack of active listening won’t be tolerated.
Part of active listening is making sure that in the moment, you’ve taken in information effectively. You might say something like, “From what I understand, you’re unhappy with the level of customer service from your current provider, but do wish that our premium package had a lower price point.” This shows you’ve acknowledged their concerns, and also gives them opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.
↳How can Ringover help you summarize?Ringover can allow you to track or take notes on conversations in real-time, making it easy to present an impressive summarization to your prospect.
Be open to questions.
A giant part of active listening is asking the questions that will encourage prospects to talk more about their needs, clear up misconceptions, and feel that their input is valued. A great exercise with your team is to brainstorm the types of questions that could come up in future conversations.