The One Thing All Salespeople Should Do (But Don’t)

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I once had a sales manager who seemed to be able to sell anyone. He wasn’t extraordinarily friendly or charming, and there really wasn’t anything about him that could explain his consistent success. And calling his success consistent is an accurate assessment since no matter where he worked, he quickly rose to become the top salesperson. He was in the Marine Corps, then started working in collections where he was quickly promoted to a manager, then a branch manager.

After that, he went into mortgages and made $40,000 in his first month on the floor. It was the heyday of the lending boom and many people were making a lot of money but a first month like that was still very impressive. He became a producing sales manager, and eventually left and became a real estate agent. Last year he made $789,000.

I know it sounds like something out of Glengarry Glen Ross, but it’s true. His production numbers are listed on his company’s President’s Club page where he is the #3 agent in the state. There’s no denying that he has a great work ethic, and knows how to communicate with people, but according to him, it isn’t either one of these things that’s been responsible for his amazing success. I once asked him, point-blank; “How are you so good at selling, and what makes you successful everywhere you work?” And he gave me a simple, two-word answer: “I listen.”

It seems so simple, but most salespeople spend so much time talking, explaining, trying to get the customer to like us that we forget the most important thing is listening to the customer’s needs and then coming up with a solution for them. He went on to say; “If you let people talk long enough, they will tell you everything you need to close the sale.” Since salespeople are so outgoing, and oftentimes impatient (and busy), we rarely take the time to truly allow a person to talk uninterrupted, or we start rambling on ourselves trying to fill the awkward silences with the sound of our own voices when we should be doing just the opposite.

It’s also likely that a customer will react to a salesperson who listens to them more favorably anyway because they are so used to people trying to sell them something. And, let’s be honest, most people aren’t used to anyone listening to them at all, from their spouse to their boss, to their kids and dog. So the next time you’re talking to a customer, try your absolute hardest to let themĀ talk and tell you exactly what it is that they want. Ask probing questions, be quiet, and most importantly, listen to what they say. It might just make you the most successful salesperson you’ve ever met.


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