How to Improve Your Listening Skills & Stay Present in Sales Conversations

Charisma can take you far. But, if you don’t stop to learn about your customers—if you don’t hear what they have to say—you won’t be able to connect.

Salespeople display bad listening skills by:

  1. Talking over prospects and customers
  2. Encouraging feedback, but only hearing what they want to hear
  3. Not staying present in the moment

Imagine this: You're on a call with a potential customer, and your mind is preoccupied with distractions—your inbox, your lunch, an impending meeting.

This happens too frequently.

What we often underestimate is the fact that prospects can sense this lack of focus. Plus, when you’re not practicing effective listening, you miss opportunities and insight.

Although the topic of improving your listening isn’t as sexy as the newest sales technology or the latest cold calling tips, its impact on your conversion rates is undeniable.

How to Improve Your Listening Skills in Sales Conversations: 8 Practical Tips

Though it may sound like a basic skill, the truth is, many of us aren’t great listeners.

While 96 percent of global professionals consider themselves good listeners, one study suggests that half of adults can’t describe a conversation they just had, even moments later.

Thankfully, there are some practical tips that can help improve your listening and overall communication skills as a salesperson.

1. Shut Up

Enthusiasm is great, especially during a demo or sales pitch, but not when it’s at the expense of others. Give people the opportunity to teach you about your product. Let them speak without interruption.

How many times have you found yourself on a sales call, dominating the conversation? You're pitching your product and running through features and benefits like a machine gun, hoping that somewhere, somehow, something will stick.

Guess what? You're doing it wrong.

If you're talking, you're not listening. And if you're not listening, you're missing out on valuable information.

Your prospects don't care about your product. They care about their problems, their pains, and their aspirations. They don't want a sales pitch, they want solutions. They want to be heard, to be understood, and to trust that you give a damn about their situation.

So, how do you do that? Shut up.

Listen for clues that will help you explore the root of their problem:

  • Why are they looking for a solution?
  • What factors play a role in their decision?
  • Are they stressed out?
  • Are they confused?
  • Have they been burned by other products in the past?

Many times, if you just let them talk, you’ll get answers to these questions and more.

Rely on their voice to shape the conversation, not yours.

Let them talk until they've got nothing more to say. Only then should you start speaking with empathy, understanding, and a focus on how your solution aligns with their needs.

Before a call or meeting, you might even commit to saying 20 percent less than you normally say, so that when you do talk, your words have more impact.

2. Ask Good Questions

Salespeople don’t need to have all the answers, but they should know how to find them. Many times, prospects already know how to solve a problem—they just lack the clarity to see end results.

If you listen carefully and ask the right questions, prospects often do a lot of the work for you. They generate ideas and insights, which you can build on to solve their problem in a way they understand.

It’s important to recognize the difference between good and bad questions.

“Would you like a more secure phone?” is a bad question—it leads the customer to a foregone conclusion. Who’s going to say no?

Everybody wants a secure phone. If this was the only question you asked a group of people, you’d come away thinking they were all your target audience.

The better question is open-ended: “What don’t you like about your phone?”

If security comes up organically—something like, “Well, I just read about how insecure our phones are”—ask follow-up questions. Explore the deeper meaning of insecurity in this context. It’s rare that the first answer someone gives will contain all the information you need to understand their problem.

The takeaway here is to ask good sales questions in a genuine way. When a prospect answers your question, don’t just move on to the next talk track if it doesn’t make sense in the current context of the conversation. Make your questions flow, and make them sound natural—this becomes much easier as your listening abilities improve.

3. Get Rid of Distractions

As salespeople, our digital worlds are riddled with distractions. LinkedIn notifications, Slack messages, emails popping up, calendar reminders, the list goes on. These disruptions, however small, can distract us from our main objective: building relationships with our prospects.

Just like yours, your prospect’s time is valuable. So, do them—and yourself—a favor and eliminate any potential distractions during your call.

This means shutting down your email, putting your phone on silent, and closing any apps that might push notifications.

And, don't forget about your own thoughts. Instead of daydreaming about lunch, engage fully with your conversation—and give your prospect the courtesy of your full attention.

4. Show Empathy

Empathy might seem like a soft skill in the world of sales, but the thing is—we’re all human and humans crave connection.

Whether your prospect is confused, frustrated, or simply overwhelmed, taking a moment to acknowledge their feelings can go a long way. Empathizing with them shows that you understand their situation and are eager to help.

This could involve providing solutions beyond your product's capabilities, or simply lending an ear to their concerns. By showing empathy, you're telling them that their experience matters to you, making them more likely to trust you.

5. Be Present in the Moment

Although it might sound cliché, the importance of “being present” in sales conversations is essential. Multitasking may be the norm in our fast-paced world, but when it comes to sales, it’s a hindrance.

By giving your prospect your undivided attention you make them feel heard, respected, and valued. It's about switching off the auto-pilot and genuinely tuning into the conversation. This means actively listening to their responses and adapting your questions accordingly, rather than sticking rigidly to a predetermined script.

But what about taking notes? That could be considered multitasking, right?

Here’s where you need to take advantage of technology to help you become less distracted and more productive. You can record your sales calls and listen back to them later, while also leveraging tools like Pilot or Fathom to automatically take notes for you.

If your meeting involves a whole team, you may also act as the official note-taker and be in charge of taking meeting minutes. This requires attention to detail and is a necessary task for team and board meetings that require more formality. It will also mean that paying attention and being present in conversations will be part of your obligations.

Every call is a new opportunity, a new adventure. Treat it as such. Be curious, be engaged, and have a genuine, uninterrupted curiosity about the person you’re talking to.

You might be talking with someone who lives on the other side of the globe, having a completely different life experience. Asking them “Where do you live?” or “What do you do for fun?” breaks down walls, making the conversation more authentic and enjoyable for both parties.

How to Improve Your Listening Skills & Stay Present in Sales Conversations - Be Present in the Moment

6. Practice Active Listening

There's a world of difference between hearing someone speak and actively listening to them. Hearing is passive. It's your ears picking up noise while your mind is off gallivanting somewhere else. But active listening? That's a whole other ball game.

When you're actively listening, you're all in. You're not just waiting for your turn to speak—you're genuinely invested in understanding what your prospect is trying to convey. You're tuning in, catching every word, every inflection, and every pause.

Active listening isn't about nodding your head and throwing in a few "uh-huhs" and "I see’s." It's about asking probing questions based on what they've just said, paraphrasing or summarizing to confirm your understanding, and giving feedback.

Now, here's the kicker: For most of us, our active listening skills need to be developed—continuously. It’s one of the toughest parts of effective communication and it takes practice.

We're used to waiting for our turn to speak, to pitch, to sell. But, in order to truly master the art of sales and become better listeners, we need to switch gears. We need to reverse our instincts and train ourselves to actively listen instead of just passively hear.

7. Consciously Rid Yourself of Biases

We've all got biases. It's part of being human. But if you want to become a better salesperson, you've got to check those biases at the door and have an open mind.

Whether it's making assumptions about a prospect based on their job title, their company size, or even their location, biases can mess with your sales game big time. They cloud your judgment, they skew your perception, and worst of all, they can cost you deals.

Now, you might be thinking, "I treat everyone the same. I don't have biases." And to that, I say: Wrong! We all have biases, whether we're conscious of them or not. The first step to overcoming them is acknowledging they exist.

The next step? Actively working to get rid of them.

You've got to approach every call and every conversation with a fresh pair of eyes and ears. Treat every prospect like they're your first and only prospect of the day.

Every conversation is a new opportunity to learn something, understand someone, and solve a problem. If you've got preconceived notions running the show, you're not going to get very far.

So, before you pick up that phone or jump into that Zoom meeting, take a moment. Breathe. Clear your mind. Remind yourself that this isn't just another call, another prospect. This is a new person, with unique needs, challenges, and goals.

8. Learn How to Pick up on Nonverbal Communication

Listening techniques go beyond your ears.

They involve understanding and interpreting nonverbal cues as well. Things like:

These clues can tell you a lot about your prospect's state of mind, level of interest, and reservations.

And let's not forget about video calls. Sure, you can't shake their hand or read their full body language, but there's still a ton of information right in front of you. Are they maintaining eye contact, or are they constantly looking at something off-screen? Are they leaning in, engaged, or leaning back, disinterested? Are they making facial expressions that indicate agreement, or do they look confused?

Learning to pick up on these nonverbal cues will help you adapt your approach on the fly and address unspoken concerns.

Having good communication skills isn’t just about processing words—it’s about understanding the whole message, including what’s not being said.

How to Improve Your Listening Skills & Stay Present in Sales Conversations - Pick up Non-verbal Communication

Stop Passively Hearing and Start Actively Listening

Increasing your conversion rates doesn’t always have to involve the latest and greatest sales technology or an overhaul of your entire sales strategy. Sometimes, all it takes is honing an age-old human skill: listening.

From embracing silence and staying fully present in the moment, to actively listening and asking good questions, these are things that will push your conversion rates up and to the right.

But when it is your turn to talk, you want to make sure you’re saying the right things and making as much of an impact as possible. That’s why we’ve put together a free sales script to help you close more deals with less effort.

And if you’re looking for a user-friendly CRM that can streamline your sales calls, manage better note-taking, and centralize your communication (freeing you up to listen more)—try Close.


Table of Contents
Share this article