7 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Listener


Most people are just naturally poor listeners.  They are distracted, worried about what they are going to say or flat out bored.  Others (a select few), have perfected the knack of being attentive & actively participate in listening. You know who they are – they’re the ones you go to when you need to get something off your chest.  In sales, the ability to listen well is an essential skill. If you can’t show your prospects & clients that you care enough to pay attention & really hear what they are saying they will find a way to de-select you.

There is no doubt about this: Listening contributes to your success.  In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the fifth habit is Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.  Sure, success is defined in many ways, but it does not “just happen”. Successful people (effective people) listen to others – friends, colleagues, customers, competitors – all with the goal to understand first, before being understood.

We’ve all been told “Two ears & one mouth!” So how do you get there? How do you improve your listening skills? It may be “simpler” than you think. But, don’t let the simplicity fool you into thinking it is easy. It takes work.  But if you are ready to become a better listener, here are some practical ways to do so.

  1. Put the other person first

    This is the key. Listen first. Covey said understand first. If the other person remains first, the rest become easier & will feel more natural

  2. Pursue understanding

    Avoid the tendency to stereotype or judge. Understanding someone does not require you to agree with them. It just means you have a greater awareness of who they are or of their position.

  3. Hold your tongue

    Listening is only accomplished with your ears. Acknowledge what you hear & empathize with the speaker to keep the conversation going, but resist the urge to respond with your opinion or advice. Thinking about your response distracts you from listening to what is being said & offering advice without understanding is not going to help your cause.

  4. Go beyond the words

    In the song Enjoy the Silence, Depeche Mode sings, “words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm.” Boy are they right! Especially when you should be listening & not talking. Words can be distracting – provocative, exaggerations, honest misspeak. If you resist the urge to react to words alone, you can better avoid disagreement & get to real understanding. Of course, this can be difficult when words become personal. But be aware of the non-verbal clues, including your own, & strive for understanding as best you can.

  5. Ask questions

    Ask open-ended questions to show you are engaged. Be curious through questions. Use questions to help clarify something. Questions will sustain a conversation & help you keep the other person first.

  6. Keep eye contact

    Ask open-ended questions to show you are engaged. Be curious through questions. Use questions to help clarify something. Questions will sustain a conversation & help you keep the other person first.

  7. A nod of the head & a squint of the eye

    Good listeners do a great job of “looking like they are listening.” When you nod your head (or tilt your head from time-to-time) you give the other person the impression that you are listening. Squinting your eyes (also from time-to-time) clues people into the fact that you are concentrating on what they are saying. Try it.

Your spouse or friend or other family member might tell you that you’re not listening – but your prospects & customers rarely (if ever) will. They don’t see it as their place. But they never forget. Don’t give them a chance. Work on your listening skills – work hard.

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Dave Tear

Dave is passionate about selling & helping others understand the sales process. Whether a client company has a 5 person sales team or a 300 person National sales force, Dave can Coach & Train them to be the best in their industry.
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