A study of the behavioral characteristics of the best salespeople was published a few years ago.  One of the not-so-surprising conclusions was this:  The best salespeople “listen more constructively” than their more average counterparts.

Define Constructive Listening

What does it mean to “listen constructively?”  My wife is a crisis counselor, and she talks about listening “empathetically.”  That means that she listens to understand and relate to how people are feeling.  But the study didn’t say great salespeople listen “empathetically,” it said they listen “constructively.”

There is a clue to its meaning in the word itself.  Think “constructively = construction = building.”  Listening constructively means to listen for things upon which to build.

Great sale people ask great questions and then listen more constructively.  They focus intently on what the customer is saying, filter it through the perspective of things “upon which to build.”  So, they build their next question on the braces and beams of the customer’s answer.  As they dig deeper and listen intently, they gather a better picture of the customer’s issues, needs, situation, motivation, and concerns.  They form a clearer mental “blueprint” of the selling situation and are able, therefore, to provide a more accurate and appealing solution.

This, of course, flies in the face of a piece of conventional wisdom that proclaims that good salespeople are good talkers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Good salespeople are good listeners, not good talkers.

A study published by RainToday.com found that 74% of 200 purchasers surveyed at companies nationwide said they would be “much more likely” to buy from a salesperson if the seller would simply listen to the prospect.

Imagine that.  Almost three-quarters of customers would be more likely to buy if the salesperson would just listen!

Listening Skills Take Time to Develop

Listening well — listening constructively — is not a natural skill.  It takes intentionality and dedication to work consistently at it and to become, over time, one of the best listeners.   As in every aspect of sales success, the decision to become the master this skill will take time and effort to gradually develop the skills.

There are few things more important than listening well.  The best do it better than the average.  That’s why they are the best.

To learn more about this skill, read Chapter 16 of my book, Question Your Way to Sales Success