Listening to Customers Increases Sales: Here’s How

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Sales Bible" by Jeffrey Gitomer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How important is listening in the sales process? How might you become a better listener?

According to The Sales Bible, listening to customers is probably the most important part of sales. However, many salespeople don’t understand this. Most people are actually pretty poor listeners. Author Jeffrey Gitomer offers three tips to help you become better at listening.

Read more for insights on listening to customers.

Learn to Listen to Customers

An essential part of building and maintaining relationships is listening. In fact, Gitomer says that listening to customers is probably the most important part of selling. Not only does it help you deal with customers’ complaints, but listening also helps you understand customers’ reasons for buying (or not buying) and what kind of customers they are. This understanding then enables you to make a better sales pitch. 

(Shortform note: The type of listening required in sales is active listening, which means giving your full attention to the speaker. This means paying attention so you can remember what the speaker says, understand, and respond. Aside from sending verbal signals to show you’re engaged, experts say you should also send non-verbal cues, such as making eye contact.)

However, many salespeople undervalue the importance of listening to customers. Gitomer says that’s because they prejudge the other person, think they already know what the other person is going to say, or have other thoughts that distract them from the conversation. (Shortform note: Even if you think you’re a good listener, there’s a good chance that you aren’t: While 96 percent of respondents in a survey considered themselves to be good listeners, studies show that we remember only about half of what people tell us because we’re not actively listening.) 

To become a better listener, Gitomer gives the following tips:

1) Stay Focused 

Use listening noises (“I see,” “What happened next?”), put your mobile phone on silent mode, and practice mindfulness to keep your mind from wandering. (Shortform note: One important part of staying focused that Gitomer doesn’t mention is making eye contact. While you should make eye contact to show that you’re focused, staring intently at the other person for more than a few seconds can make them feel uncomfortable. Some communication experts recommend that you maintain eye contact 50 percent of the time while speaking and 70 percent while listening.)

2) Wait for Your Turn 

Don’t interrupt, even if you think you already know how to respond. (Shortform note: To keep yourself from interrupting, experts recommend taking deep breaths, counting to 10, or literally biting your tongue.)

3) Be Curious 

Ask questions to clarify what the other person said, help you get more information, and demonstrate that you’re interested in what they have to say. (Shortform note: Additionally, asking questions can get you on the customer’s good side—studies suggest that people who ask more questions are seen as more likable.)

Listening to Customers Increases Sales: Here’s How

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  • How to become a non-salesperson salesperson
  • How to make the best impression within the first 30 seconds
  • Methods for closing the sale without being pushy

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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