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Active Listening Is a Sales Tool… and Technology Can Help!

7 min read
Updated Aug. 24, 2020
Published Oct. 25, 2018

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey

You’d be hard-pressed to find a sales training program that didn’t reinforce the importance of active listening as a skill for sales success. Most sales professionals know it’s important to listen more than they talk during meetings. However, that’s easier said than done when you consider everything they’re juggling. Active listening is a sales tool, but the good news is that there’s technology to help!
A salesperson must stay on message, ask the right questions, communicate value, take good notes, log all activity in the CRM, and hopefully drive towards a successful outcome. And that’s only a few of the things going through a salesperson’s head during a meeting. For many, there is far too much distraction to really hear what a prospect is saying.

Buyers want salespeople to be better listeners, too. In research conducted by Hubspot, buyers shared this advice about how they think salespeople can improve the sales experience:

  • Listen to their needs – an overwhelming 69% of buyers cited ‘listen to my needs’ as the #1 thing sales reps can do to improve the sales experience
  • 61% want salespeople to be ‘less pushy’ during sales calls
  • 61% also want reps to provide more relevant information
  • 51% expect reps to respond or give information in a timely manner
  • 49% want reps to provide a range of options – even beyond a rep’s business offering

Listening is not an uncommon challenge for salespeople. A lot of us were probably the kids relegated to the “silent table” during lunch, thanks to our gift of gab. Fortunately, new sales technologies can provide reps with tools to improve their ability to actively listen – and therefore their success.
Three sales technologies, in particular, are helping sales teams dramatically enhance their listening skills:

  1. Recording and Transcription
  2. Conversation Intelligence
  3. Reporting and Analytics

Let’s explore each of these areas independently to see how your team might be able to leverage these tools to become better listeners and deliver a better selling experience.

Recording and Transcription

The ability to record and accurately transcribe notes is a game changer for sales reps. By removing the administrative burden of taking thorough notes, reps are free to focus their attention on the conversation at hand. Their job is to sell, not be an expert notetaker! In fact, taking great notes can actually inhibit reps from having quality conversations with prospects and retaining important information.
According to Psychology Today, research found that taking notes on a computer actually decreases a student’s ability to listen and recall information from lectures. It’s likely reps struggle in similar ways to retain important information from sales interactions when they are focused on taking notes versus actually listening to the conversation.
Using automated notetaking and/or transcription services built into sales platforms like Salesloft can help reps overcome these challenges and improve their listening skills. This service is becoming more widely available. Web conferencing solutions provide it, or it might be a complementary application offered by your sales engagement platform, like our Conversation Intelligence solution.

Conversation Intelligence

A more sophisticated solution, which may also include recording and transcription, is often referred to as conversation intelligence or conversation intelligence. In the case of Salesloft’s new, native Conversation Intelligence solution, teams have the ability not only to record and transcribe their meetings but also archive, annotate, and analyze key aspects of meetings.

This provides value in many different ways for teams. Most notably, Conversation Intelligence enables sales teams to:

  • Easily search conversation recordings to revisit key points in the conversation,
  • Improve the ability of sales managers to identify critical training and coaching opportunities based on a review of interactions and notations, and
  • Keep an accurate archive of sales interactions for impro6ved analysis and insights.

Reporting and Analytics

Most meeting-related sales technologies provide some form of analytics. This reporting simplifies monitoring, as well as analysis and reporting around the conversations that reps are having with prospects.
Some of the most valuable insights teams are leveraging today include:

  • Average meeting times in the context of outcome. In other words, the ability to look at the impact of conversation length, key messages, objection handling, and other aspects to see which tactics most often result in a successful outcome.
  • Talk vs. listen time analysis. Team members benefit from improved insight into the percentage of time a rep or prospect speaks during a call, an important KPI for measuring how effectively sales reps are listening to prospects – again, aligned to successful sales outcomes.
  • Form a library of “best practice” examples. Having an archive of great meetings for use in sales training and development provides additional value for sales organizations. For example, leaders can insert snippets for the best way to discuss pricing, overcome a specific objection, or close a deal on the 1st or 15th step of a cadence. This helps ensure that both new and seasoned reps are following best practices.

active listening
These three sales technologies help to improve the focus and attention reps can dedicate to conversations with prospects. However, it’s important to note that technology alone won’t make a rep a better listener. Below are some of the best suggestions for improving your rep’s listening skills.

Upping Your Listening Game

“The art of conversation lies in listening.” – Malcolm Forbes

How can your reps improve their listening skills? Beyond leveraging the technologies highlighted above, reps can benefit from ongoing training and coaching to helps them remember key guidelines for active listening.

  • Slow down the pace. Studies show that we are able to listen at a slower rate than we can think. Sales professionals must slow down the pace of the conversation in order to help prospects listen and process responses.
  • Don’t interrupt. This should be common sense, but it’s worth emphasizing with your sales team. Nobody likes to be interrupted. Reps must be intent on absorbing information during sales meetings to truly hear what a prospect is saying (and in many cases, what they aren’t saying).
  • Clarify and reinforce key points. This can be as simple as a salesperson restating a point or question a prospect has. Clarify that they heard and processed the information.
  • Reduce potential distractions. By leveraging call recording, live notetaking, and auto-tagging of conversations, sales professionals can avoid multitasking and fully focus during sales meetings. Silencing alerts and notifications from devices is also a good tactic for avoiding distractions.
  • Process and notate. Salespeople should review recordings quickly after meetings and create libraries of the best calls. They can dive deeper into meeting insights with dynamic tagging. Tags help identify follow up opportunities and the most effective approaches.

Our final recommendation is for sales leaders. It is something we’ve found valuable internally.
Share best practices among your sales team. By sharing conversation intelligence insights and recordings, sales leaders can better focus coaching efforts on sales meeting skills, tactics, and best practices. This can enhance a sales team’s ability to improve the buying experience, not to mention achieve more successful meeting outcomes.
We hope you were listening to the advice we provided in this post (see what we did there?). The more effective your team is at actively listening to prospects, the better they can be at addressing customer challenges and needs. Ultimately, they’ll be in a better position to succeed with consultative selling.

Want to learn more about how your team can conduct more effective meetings with prospects? Check out our new Conversation Intelligence solution.