Forget Scripts: How to Increase Sales Through Active Listening

Jeff Osness

April 25, 2024

8 min

Table of Contents

When trying to successfully navigate through sales calls, much attention is spent on scripts. That is, what you should be saying...

  • What to say in your opening script
  • How to overcome objection
  • What to say when price is an issue
  • How to close the deal

And sure, these (and countless other scripts and responses) are important, and WELL worth the time you spend developing them.

But not nearly enough attention is spent on the other part of the sales call: The listening part.

So today, fellow sales pro, let's forget scripts and focus our attention on the other side of the coin.

Let's focus on the gold coming through our earpiece and how we can increase sales by becoming more active, effective listeners.

Tip 1: Clarify to Ensure Understanding

The point of listening, really, is to understand.

So part of your job as an active listener is to focus on what you hear, and get clarification on important points before plowing ahead.

Even when you have a decent understanding of what your prospect is saying, it helps to paraphrase it back, and get acceptance that you've got it right.

For example, "okay, so your biggest concern right now isn't so much the traffic that your website is getting, but that visitors are leaving too quickly and not taking action?"

There are a number of benefits to doing this - the most obvious of which is that you may have misunderstood something. But there are benefits even when you've got it right. There are psychological benefits, for example, to getting your prospect to say yes, and for them to feel like you understand them.

Plus, after repeating something back for clarification, a prospect will often offer up even more information that can help you move the sale forward.

Tip 2: Use Pauses to Your Advantage

How common is it during a conversation when you and your prospect both speak at the same time and one person inevitably says, "Go ahead..."?

It happens all of the time.

Learn to leave a pause after your prospect stops speaking. When you take a breath before starting on your next point, your prospect will often continue, adding important information that can shape the conversation.

If not, the extra moment may help you formulate a stronger point.

Tip 3: Stay In the Moment

It’s human nature to think of what you’ll say next while the prospect is still talking. But that often distracts us from the conversation.

Teach yourself to break this habit and focus on exactly what the client is saying. You'll be better able to navigate the situation and handle objections when you listen intently.

Tip 4: Slow Down

It’s okay to pump the brakes a little, and slow down the pace of your call. Especially when you've got someone who's talking. Rather than moving the call prematurely to a closing stage or focusing too quickly on the call to action you have in mind, let it arrive organically.

You may make it through fewer calls, but they'll be of higher quality. You'll also builder stronger rapport with your prospects.

Tip 5: It's Not Just What They're Saying

One of the hardest parts of active listening is picking up on nonverbal communication signs. This is especially true if you’re cold calling, because you can’t actually see the person's body language.

Well, the pace of conversation and tone of voice convey a lot.

Be cognizant not only of what your prospect is saying, but how they're saying it, and adjust what you say (and how you say it) accordingly.

Your prospect's confidence and comfort level correlate highly with the outcome of the call, so learn when to adjust and go "off script."

Tip 6: Avoid Unnecessary Disagreement

Your client may say things during your meeting that you do not agree with (or that you know to be incorrect). Avoid interrupting them to set the record straight unless it's vital to closing the deal.

Your prospect may be wrong about some details, but they're never wrong about what they want and what they need. So keep listening, and stay focused on how you can be a solution to the problems their experiencing.

Tip 7: Go From "Yes" to "Yes, and..."

Active listening doesn’t mean you should just listen, and nod and say "yeah" or "right" in agreement. People tend to stop talking when their audience is just nodding in gentle agreement.

The “Yes and” principle, a common improv technique, is to carry a conversation forward by not just agreeing, but building on the point. In sales, this extra detail shows greater interest, understanding, and relating to what your prospect is saying.

Not only is this good for building relationships, it also keeps your sales message directly tied to the needs and experience of the person you're talking to.

How to Increase Sales Through Active Listening

Much time is spent thinking about what salespeople should say when they sell. But being a good listener is equally important... and should have as much influence on what is said as any script. Here are 7 tips for improving sales results through active listening:

  • Clarify statements to foster understanding
  • Pause before you respond
  • Stay in the moment
  • Slow the pace down
  • It's not just what's being said, but how it's being said
  • Avoid unnecessary arguments
  • Say "yes and..."
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