1 major tip when selling : listen more

Apr 19, 2016 by Ronnie Apteker

When you make a sales pitch of course you have to talk. Be articulate, be clear, by precise. And if you are charming then that always helps. But, more than anything else, you also need to listen.

Selling is about persuading someone of your point of view. You want that person to agree with you. You want to get them to see what you see, to buy into it. Yes, you need to win that person over and they need to trust you. If you are sincere and genuine then you are on the right path.

You need people to feel comfortable and at ease. If you are talking all the time you never let anyone in. Sure, you may make them laugh and you make loosen them up, and that is always good, but you also need to give them a chance to express themselves, and you need to listen, carefully and with enthusiasm. You need to care. If you really listen then it means you care. And if you care then your selling journey will be fruitful.

My dad always reminds me of this

We are all selling, all the time. Anyone who is trying to convince someone of something is selling. When you want to get a girl into bed, then, yes, you are selling.

My dad often reminds me, “If you want get some action then you need to listen.” He goes on to say, “Just ask her how was her day and then be quiet. Don’t interrupt her, don’t look at your stupid smartphone, just listen, and be interested. And when she finishes ask her something else. The more you listen, the better your chances you are going to get somewhere.”

This reminds me of that classic story about the lad who went to confession.

The ratio thing

We have all heard those words by now: we have two years and one mouth. Yes, always remember this ratio.

We need to listen more than we speak.

We went to see a man about fashion

I remember in the mid-90s we got a call to come and present to the executives at Edgars. My partner Jeremy phones me and said the Edgar’s leaders have asked us to come talk about the Internet at lunch time in their boardroom.

We had our date in the diary and we were ready. Jeremy and I drove together to Edgardale, as it was known then, and we were excited. The Internet was still very new in the world and there was not much to actually show in terms of Web sites and online retail, etc. But, we knew our stuff, and they were a big and exciting new potential customer.

We entered the meeting room, and there were about a dozen men seated, facing forwards. We kicked off pretty much on time and Jeremy stood up and started. He thanked everyone for giving us their time and he only spent a minute and then handed over to me. I was hailed as the new Internet whizz kid, and this was the time to inspire them.

The head of the company was holding a big, unlit cigar. And he had an over-sized sports blazer and he was a rather large, imposing man. We got the impression that all his colleagues would never interrupt him – he looked like someone who was not to be trifled with. So, about a minute or so into my hyperactive presentation, I noticed that this man, Mr. Etheridge was his name, was fidgeting and looking restless. So I stopped after about a more minute and said to him “Sir, how do you see the world of fashion the Internet coming together?” He stood up and said “Now that is a very good question.” He then went on to talk for about 40 minutes or so.

He was going on and on, and it was fascinating. I had taken a seat next to Jeremy, and was writing down everything this man was saying. At the end of his one man show he said “That was the best presentation I have been to in a while.” I thought perhaps I was on a candid camera. I mean, I was the one who was asked to come give a presentation, but I only spoke for a few minutes. And yet, everyone was happy, including the boss man.

Jeremy and I drove away from this fashion HQ chatting and chatting as if everything was all perfect, and perhaps it was. Perhaps this is how it is meant to be. Perhaps an important life lesson was just seeded that would become this piece of text today.

When we got back to our offices I typed up all the notes I had written down from Mr. Etheridge’s presentation. A day later we sent Edgars a proposal, and it was very well received. We got feedback like “You really understand our business.” I thought I truly was on some kind of hidden camera show. I mean, we went there, hardly spoke, they told us all we needed to know, and we then wrote it up in the form of a proposal, and volia, we got awarded a contract.

We went to make a sale pitched, and we listened. And it was not by design – the man never really gave me a chance to speak. But it all worked out good, and a valuable lesson was the result. Listening should always be in fashion.

Listen with your eyes

Listening is not only about opening your ears, but also, your eyes. When our host was looking around, appearing agitated, I noticed this. My eyes cued my mouth to stop – I needed to listen.

When you know you need to listen ask a leading question. And then let them take over. And, if you have a pen and paper, and it is in a business setting, then write stuff down – do not make notes on your phone, under any circumstance. Make sure that your mobile monster is out of site. Writing stuff down also shows respect for the person speaking, and it helps you to remember.


The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. ― Stephen R. Covey

This TED talk is a great conversation piece and also, it is on point : Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

YouTube has lots of refreshing insights on the subject of listening, and this one about “How to Listen Effectively When Selling“ is spot on.

I have often found that when you are walking and talking with someone that good exchanges take place. I found this interesting article about walking and thinking – this is a bit of food for thought. Living in a Johannesburg is not the most conducive city for walking, but when I do meet someone, at our office Campus, and we go for a walk in the late afternoon sun, alongside the cricket pitch, then it feels like some real bonding takes place. Perhaps being out in the elements is good for listening.

Listening is becoming more and more of a challenge with all the digital distraction that are a part of modern day life. Yup, cellphones are the new addiction across the planet, including on university campuses. Have a look at Pocket Points, an app that rewards students for not using their phones while in class. Getting people to listen, especially students, is no easy thing.

If you need to get people loosened up and you want to engage then you could always try an icebreaker. The Lemon Aid and OPPORTUNITY IS NOWHERE are particularly good at getting people to start chatting.

Summing up

Listening is fundamental. Of course, we need to speak, but learn to be interested, and not just interesting.

Being yourself is also key. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. Being vulnerable shows you are human, and it shows you have the ability to empathize with others. When you listen people feel comfortable and that is when things happen. And consider this, if you never listen how will you know when opportunity strikes. If you want to sell then listen more.

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