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Are you Listening on your Sales Calls?

My dear Dad is fast approaching 96 Years of age. He is an amazing character full of wit and charm, but at this ripe old age, as to be expected, his hearing is a little challenged. Despite all the modern advances, even the very best hearing aids struggle to assist him. Nonetheless, he gets by, but it does make for some amusing conversations. Last week, I asked him if he was ready to go and he responded by asking me was it forecast to snow. My Dad’s issue led me to think about the challenges we face in sales and if, on sales calls, we do our very best to listen to our prospects. If you are like me, it can be a struggle and can hurt us in the sales process.

Many times, during my selling career I listed listening as a development area, as part of my sales skills. I had to work hard to be conscious of it all the time. I would often find myself thinking a step or two in advance of the conversation with a prospect. My mind was sometimes thinking about what I was going to say next or I would find myself assuming that I knew what might be coming next. As Julia Robert’s once said in the movie Pretty Woman, when the shop refused to sell her some items, “Big Mistake, Big Mistake.” There are also times in sales calls when we fail to recognize those on the other side of the table and their personality traits. For example, when talking to an introvert, they typically take 8 seconds to hear and digest a question you might ask them. As an extrovert, these 8 seconds can seem like an eternity. We often run right over the question with another during the silence barely listening to the answer to the first question. I once was on a call where I thought I heard a buying signal because I had only heard part of the sentence. I went for the close with complete and utter failure and was rather embarrassed in the process. Sound familiar?

We should all take a cue from our mothers in selling, as mine used to always say “You were given two ears and one mouth; therefore, you should listen twice as much as you speak.” Thanks, Mom. Mom always knows best, right? In reality, Mom was spot on but we often refuse the advice. So, what can we do about it to be better listeners? The first thing we need to do is gear ourselves to slow down. Listening takes patience, and the ability to understand and translate what is being said to us. Listening also involves considering what the person talking is not saying, but rather doing while they are speaking. Turning on your emotional intelligence here is key and reading the body language you see and matching it with the spoken word is essential. In addition to this, I always like to digest the local language I am hearing, what is specific to this business, what are their acronyms and phrases. And once the prospect has finished speaking, I like very much to repeat back what I have heard to make sure that we are aligned, and we can advance.

For certain, this sounds a lot easier than it is in a real sales situation. We are after all salespeople and we want to talk, we want to communicate the fantastic features and benefits of the product we are selling. As hard as it is, resist that urge, Why?

When we listen, it is amazing what we pick up. We make our sales process much easier, because in many cases when a prospect is let speak, they share more than we could ever imagine. What business does not like to talk about themselves and their product? When we listen and show genuine interest that we have heard them and more importantly that we understand them, do we build trust? Is this not one of the key ingredients in sales? Along the way, we will learn things to use later in the sales process to advance our sales and build credibility along the way.

So next time you’re in the presence of an aging elder and they cannot hear you, you’ll know it’s probably not their fault, you might even get a chuckle or two out of some of the things they say. But if you’re a salesperson and a little younger than my dad, know that listening should be very much in your control. Work hard to hear what is being said and you’ll know as my dad, that it’s not snowing out, but time to go.

Roger McNamara Bio:

Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple industries and across the globe that include: Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR's, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales, B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $300 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchants pay to accept Credit, and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and the associations. Roger has also developed insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces, in general, to be able to better position their products and gain share, particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at

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