The Most Important Sales Skill Every Representative Needs to Learn


Poor listening has its price. In fact, millions of dollars are lost daily due to poor listening. It may not be that much for your business, but there remains the fact – poor listening is a costly mistake. Adding insult to injury, such a mistake shouldn’t be a mistake at all if you’d just invested a little of your time learning the most important skill every sales representative must possess.

Then again, there goes the cliché – hearing is one thing, listening is another. By definition, hearing is the act or process of perceiving sound while listening is the act of paying attention to sound and the process of hearing something with thoughtful attention.

But, then again, listening is not the most important sales skill that we are talking about. Active listening is a conscious effort, which means you have to be mentally present during the entire process. What we want to teach you is the art of empathetic listening. Here are some things worth knowing about this most important skill.

Empathetic listening defined

Empathetic listening is guided by the principle “seek to understand, before being understood.” The root word is empathy, which is defined as the ability to understand and share the emotions and experiences of another person. Thus, the process aims to connect cognitively and emotionally at the same time. It means paying attention to what the other person is saying with empathy, with compassion without forgetting about the insights.

One study refers to the process as active empathetic listening. Again, active listening appeals to the intellect more. For example, repeating back what the other person has said to ensure that you understand. The listening aspect is superficial. But whether it’d be empathetic listening or active empathetic listening, the bottom-line is empathy must be at the core.

Why empathetic listening

Empathetic listening has its own dynamics. Nonetheless, it can only be effective when the act of listening itself is born out of the sincere desire to understand what the other person feels. Such desire helps in realizing that the perspectives of that person have value. After listening empathetically, you may now see the bigger picture and make better and more informed decisions following that.

Fundamentally, you might be asking – As a salesperson, how can I make sense of empathetic listening? Empathetic listening is the key in upping up connect rates, developing better relationships and enabling to make more sales. Here’s how in detail.

1) Empathetic listening optimizes a follow-up

While you might say that cold calling is difficult, wait till you do some rounds of follow-up. Understandably, you would want to go over your follow-up script, but how will you respond when your prospect says, “Oh hi! I just got back from Greece. The place is so nice!” Will you say, “That’s great! Well, you should have bought our product blah blah blah to make your vacation more blah blah blah.” Wrong.

Think of a sales follow-up as an opportunity to build a relationship with your prospect. That means during that call you may say, “That’s great to hear. I’ve been wanting to go to Greece for a long time now. Any place I shouldn’t miss checking out?” Upon hearing the question, your prospect may start talking from a personal experience you can also build upon to deepen the connection.

2) Empathetic listening helps in need identification

Some prospects – the majority of them – cannot clearly articulate their pain points. They often do this through telling a story, a story that you have to listen to intently otherwise you will miss any opportunity that might emerge from it. There would be no need to ask any questions whether they need your product or service or not, allowing you to clarify and qualify.

For prospects that aren’t so forthcoming, the single most important question you can ask is W-H-Y to facilitate the sharing of experience. And, other than listening compassionately, read the body language of the person speaking. Don’t miss the small cues and steer the conversation from there.

3) Empathetic listening aids in prospect qualification

One of the most common mistakes of a sales rep is going too deep in the sales prospect without realizing the bad fit between the prospect and his or her product, service or both. Nonetheless, once you get the facts from listening from them, you can instantly make an informed decision whether that prospect is worth pursuing or not.

Depending on what the prospect says he or she needs or what his or her body language reveals and depending on the depth of the connection, the conversation may eventually lead to a demo.


How to listen empathetically

While empathy is not a word you get to hear during a sales meeting, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist within the sales schema. Because it does and it should be. Good thing, empathetic listening is a learnable skill. Below are the basic guidelines.

– Focus on the person speaking

– Tune into the speaker’s voice inflection and body language (verbal and non-verbal cues)

– Look for feelings surrounding the person’s words and nuances in the speaker’s thoughts

– Identify the person’s core perspectives

– Accept the person’s interpretation as valid and worthwhile

– Use your imagination to think about a similar or almost similar situation you’ve been in

– Be aware of your own emotions about the topic

– Be aware of your own body language

– Indicate you are listening through providing responses, head nodding, providing invitations for the speaker to relate more

– Be open-minded and honest particularly if there’s no good fit

– Put your opinion aside in the meantime; share them later

– Collect yourself first before responding

– Seek confirmation by verifying your perceptions

– Ask confirmation questions genuinely

– Don’t pass judgments on their actions, the facts, and the meaning being related

– Respect the speaker’s views and opinions

– Follow the basic listening rules – don’t interrupt, don’t interrogate and don’t be distracted

Let’s end this discussion with one of the most powerful states from Anthony Iannarino: “Caring comes first. If you don’t care how people feel, it is impossible to be empathetic.

30 Sales Blog That You Must Read

You should be building a good targeted list instead of relying on your cold emails to disqualify leads. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re talking to a potential customer, don’t send the email.


Learning is a fundamental aspect of every salesperson’s professional development. In this digital day and age, one way to do this is through reading blogs. However, with all the sales out there, how would you know which ones are worth reading? Perhaps, you can refer to the list below.

Sales blogs you should read

1) Smart Selling Tools

Sales Tip: Listening is an act of learning. What’s earned salespeople a bad name is that they listen with their head and not their heart. If you truly hear what your prospect is saying, you’ll respond with sincere interest, thoughtful questions, and an honorable intent. And those are three qualities that will differentiate you from your competitors.

In: Don’t Spook Your Prospects: 5 Surefire Ways to Keep Your Prospects from Fleeing in Fear by Nancy Nardin


2) The Sales Blog

Sales Tip: Different businesses, different industries, and different customers can all have different sales cycles. This is not to say that most sales organizations couldn’t stand to improve their ability to compress their sales cycle time; most could.

In: Closing Faster by Anthony Iannarino


3) Partners in Excellence Blog

Sales Tip: Prescription has become the big buzzword. In prescription, we spell out the things salespeople need to do to maximize their success. A sales process is prescriptive.

In: Are We Getting Better as Sales Professionals by David Brock


4) A Sales Guy

Sales Tip: Discovery questions are designed to get to the known. Provoking questions, on the other hand, are designed to get to the unknown. They are designed to challenge the customer and get them thinking about what they are doing, why they are doing it and what alternatives they have.

In: The ONE Question to Get More Sales by Jim Keenan


5) Your Sales Playbook

Sales Tip: I’m not saying we should avoid opportunities for growth, I’m saying that we need to be realistic and NEVER hold strengths hostage while we focus too much energy on weaknesses.

In: 4 Things to Do If You Suck at Cold Calling by Paul Castain


6) Heinz Marketing

Sales Tip: Common seller misconceptions all circle around a theme: a lack of communication and understanding between buyers and sellers. Sellers can overcome this gap by differentiating themselves from the competition through specialization, by helping clients articulate and define their business challenges, and by educating their target audience. Sellers who follow these steps will find themselves generating more business with both potential and existing clients, and poaching clients from firms that have not yet addressed the gap.

In: 3 Common Misconcewaysptions That Are Killing Your Sales by Matt Heinz


7) Fearless Selling

Sales Tip: Just because someone says you are too expensive does not mean your price is too high. It is much more effective to ask, “What do you mean by that?” or “Compared to what?” This usually gives you additional insight into their true objection which means you can often close the sale without discounting.

In: The Top 7 Reason People Say “You’re Too Expensive” by Kelly Robertson


8) Score More Sales

Sales Tip: You must find ways to inspire yourself. For goal attainment in professional selling, you must know WHY you are at work. If you do NOT have your “WHY” then there is NO REASON for you to work hard (or smart) the rest of the day.

In: The Power of Goal Setting in Sales by Lori Richardson


9) Jill Konrath

Sales Tip: We don’t want to lose good prospects – especially after we’ve invested so much time and effort working with them. So we mistakenly – and irrationally – keep thinking they’re going to close. Usually, they don’t. The longer it takes to close a sale, the less likely it’s ever going to happen.

In: How Badly is the “Loss Aversion Syndrome” Hurting Your Sales Success? by Jill Konrath


10) Selling Fearlessly

Sales Tip: The born salesperson possesses two instinctive attributes others must work their butts off to develop. First is the gift of gab. If you’re a born salesperson, you instinctively know it; if you’re not, take heart: what isn’t intuitive today soon will be, if you’re determined enough to make it happen.

In: Are Salespeople Born or Made? by Robert Terson


11) The Sales Hunter

Sales Tip: The real value of insights is when the sales manager is acting as a sales leader in the field, helping to develop their salespeople and customers. This is the impact the sales leader is paid to have.

In: 5 Questions You Must Ask About Your Sales Process by Mark Hunter


12) Sales Training Connection

Sales Tip: But today, sales reps are selling complex solutions – requiring them to do more account strategizing and call planning before meeting face-to-face with customers. They also have to be prepared for the back-and-forth business conversations with customers inherent in “getting the solution right” as well as navigating more complex decision making processes. That’s why top sales reps take the time to understand how a deal impacts stakeholders and take more time in planning and preparation.

In: Are Your Sales Reps Spending Too Much Time in Front of Customers? by Richard Ruff and Janet Spirer


13) Fill the Funnel

Sales Tip: Purpose. If you do not first define your purpose in making a call, you will not achieve a positive outcome.

In: Defining Purpose Is First Step In FirstCalling by Miles Austin


14) Top Sales Dog

Sales Tip: If it takes you seven or more attempts to reach a prospect, that prospect is 45% less likely to convert than those you reach in six calls or fewer.

In: How Many Follow-Up Calls are Enough? by Michael Boyette


15) Sales Benchmark Index

Sales Tip: The sales team needs leads from marketing to be successful. And the marketing team needs feedback on those leads to improve quality going forward. The two strategies are perpetually connected. You must have a sales strategy that is aligned with the other functional strategies in 2016. It’s the only way to systematize revenue growth.

In: What Sales Leaders Need to Know About Marketing Strategy by SBI


16) Predictable Revenue

Sales Tip: You must focus on QUALITY, not quantity, of actions, calls and leads (fewer, bigger, better). This includes having a well-defined activity funnel, and measuring results-based activities (such as “Number of Scoping Calls Completed Per Week”) and never measuring dials.

In: Why Salespeople Don’t Prospect by Aaron Ross


17) Powerful Sales Training

Sales Tip: Hype appeals to the imagination, both on the part of the salesperson and customer. The problem with hype and imagination during the sales of product is that both always exceed whatever features/benefits said product might convey in reality. Nine times out of ten, this is a recipe for an unhappy customer.

In: How to Avoid Hype When Selling by Alan Mayer


18) Smart Calling

Sales Tip: Action is the best way to overcome the fear of anything in sales.

In: Solid Sales Wisdom Does Not Go Out of Style by Art Sobczak


19) Inside Sales Experts

Sales Tip: But far too often, we squander all that preceding effort by confusing, boring or annoying prospects while generally failing to move the sales process forward. You are the presentation – not the slides.

In: Sales Presentations That Don’t Suck by The Bridge Group


20) The Center for Sales Strategy

Sales Tip: Brand yourself online. Social selling involves you taking ownership of how you want to be perceived by those who may potentially buy from you. That means you may need to think of the audience on LinkedIn in a different light. It’s not about networking with people who may want to hire you someday. It’s about networking with people who might want to buy from you someday.

In: Three Simple Steps to Start Social Calling


21) The Funnelholic

Sales Tip: Today’s top sales performers look for an edge from technology, not exclusivity. They use technology to create a better buying experience for their customers and to streamline their own sales process.

In: 4 Habits of a New Generation of Top Sales Performers by Craig Rosenberg


22) Point Clear

Sales Tip: Lead nurturing and initial qualification calls to prospects may lie with marketing automation or inside sales qualification specialists (unless it is outsourced). But the actual, final management of the prospect is square in the lap of the individual salesperson. The responsibility for addressing prospects’ needs remains a major part of the sales job.

In: To Manage Sales You Must Manage Sales Leads by Dan McDade


23) Sales Pro Insider

Sales Tip: None of these tactics help a mis-hire. How, then, do we select sales candidates that can and will really sell as needed? Use an effective and proof-based selection process as an aid. Just like a sales process moves the right opportunities through the pipeline, a hiring and selection process effectively moves the right candidates through to a successful hire.

In: Selecting Top Sales Candidates: How to Determine if They Can (and Will) Really Sell by Nancy Bleeke


24) Sales Journal

Sales Tip: Aiming for success in sales but failing to put together a decent compensation plan amounts to a similar outcome; going on a trip with no plans in mind. A sales compensation plan (SCP) should be purposefully and carefully drawn up by the sales organization and must align company-wide goals with sales performance and behavior.

In: The Importance of a Good Sales Compensation Plan by Naviga


25) Sales Wars

Sales Tip: A properly-defined pipeline and its stages help you organize your sales process and create effective tools and benchmarks for your sales team, making it much easier to predict the future success of your sales force. In fact, by using KPIs it’s possible to get within five percent forecast accuracy, meaning that you’ll always know not only how your team is currently performing, but also what roadblocks might lie ahead.

In: The Value of Key Performance Indicators for Tracking Sales Growth by Quota Factory


26) Sales Folk

Sales Tip: You should be building a good targeted list instead of relying on your cold emails to disqualify leads. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re talking to a potential customer, don’t send the email.

In: 4 Reasons Vanity is Ruining Your Cold Emails by Heather R. Morgan


27) Salesforce Blog

Sales Tip: Team selling is just like it sounds: A group of highly motivated players — field sales, inside sales, channel sales, sales operations, and sales strategy — each tapping into their unique skills to win the sale.

In: New: An Interactive Guide to Winning More Sales


28) Sales Hacker

Sales Tip: The difference is that a demo is not merely a walkthrough of the features of the solution, but a highly contextual demonstration which specifically addresses the business challenges the prospect is looking to address — with the added touch of showing this with their data loaded into the system.

In: Using the Sales Process to Create a Competitive Advantage


29) Sales Engine

Sales Tip: Being a salesperson is tough. You deal with rejection and missed opportunities more than you’d care to admit. It will serve you well to inject a little positivity into your working situation and your coworkers will thank you for it. In this case, the class clown wins over the Debbie Downer. It takes a lot more motivation to be productive when your coworker walks into the office and grumbles to you about how badly they want it to be Friday already. Lighten the mood on the phone with your prospects and with your coworkers so you can all hit your sales targets.

In: Your Lazy Attitude is Killing Your Sales Numbers by Craig Wortmann


30) Jonathan Farrington

Sales Tip: An effective sales team understands the big picture and the context of their team’s work to the greatest degree possible. That includes understanding the relevance of their job and how it impacts the effectiveness of others and the overall team effort.

In: So, What Makes a Successful Sales Team?


Staying on top of the game is a monumental task. These blogs will be the driving force behind making such a task easier. These blogs aren’t just good reads, but highly valuable reads that every salesperson must be aware of.


Vender App has its own blog where you read more on sales and productivity tips. While at it, download the app and discover how easy it is to improve sales using the right platform.