The Perfect Talk-Listen Ratio in Sales That Will Help You Close Deals Faster

This article is part of the Crunchbase Community Contributor Series. The author is an expert in their field and we are honored to feature and promote their contribution on the Crunchbase blog.

Please note that the author is not employed by Crunchbase and the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect official views or opinions of Crunchbase, Inc.

Working in sales involves a lot of talking. It’s often referred to as the “gift of gab” when someone has the ability to chat to people effortlessly and create genuine connections to get them on board with what they’re offering. 

Talking less and listening more is a good rule of thumb when it comes to sales. Why? Because it offers the other person a chance to be heard, and allows the salesperson to build good rapport with the customer. 


What does it mean to talk less, listen more?

Listening more is a skill that virtually everyone can benefit from. When we are actively engaged in a conversation it can improve productivity, enhance negotiations and allow you to persuade the other person more easily. In addition, you can avoid conflicts and any future misunderstandings, because you have listened attentively. 

In today’s climate, communication is more important than ever, particularly when many of the conversations we’re having aren’t face-to-face. Listening intently has become a coveted skill, which can highly benefit those in customer-facing roles. 

It can help to create and build solid relationships, solve problems, resolve any issues and improve accuracy. It may also mean fewer errors are made which could save time and money in the long run. 


What is active listening?

Essentially, active listening involves really paying attention to the other person by using all of your senses. Not only should you be giving your full focus to the speaker, you should also show that you are giving them your full attention. You should never look bored or uninterested when they’re talking.

Showing that you’re interested in what the other person is saying can be via verbal or non-verbal messages such as eye contact, affirmations and agreements, with a “yes” or a head nod. Offering this feedback assures them they are being listened to and taken seriously, and will be more open to communicating honestly. 

Simply “hearing” is different than actually listening. Listening is an active process in which someone consciously makes the effort to take in and digest what the speaker is trying to convey. Hearing is when the message has been vaguely heard, but not understood or interpreted for clarity. 

In sales, listeners should remain nonjudgmental and neutral in their approach so it doesn’t seem as though you’re taking sides. Active listening is all about patience, taking time with the other person, and not appearing to jump in or trying to rush them in any way. 

Let the moments of silence sit. If anything, this may encourage the other person to break the silence and talk more—giving them a chance to further explain what they are trying to say. 

There are five main steps to active listening:


How to actively listen in sales

As a salesperson, you need to learn to perfect the art of listening. Knowing when to keep quiet and let the other person speak is a learned skill. Here’s how to actively listen:

1. Ask questions

Asking relevant questions can show that you’ve been listening to what they’re saying. It can also help you clarify what’s being said. If you haven’t understood something correctly, don’t be afraid to wait until that person has paused and ask, “Could you repeat that?” or “I’m not sure I understand what you were saying about … .”

We ask questions all the time in our daily interactions without even realizing it. Questions show you are genuinely interested in what they’re saying.  in a sales call, they can help you gain a deeper understanding of an issue, or exactly what the customer is looking for. 

Sometimes you may end up on a tangent, and sometimes you’ll work your way back to the original topic.  If you notice your question led the customer in a new direction, you must take responsibility for getting the conversation back on track. 

2. Repeat it back

It’s helpful to paraphrase what the person has said to you during a conversation, as opposed to offering specific thoughts or harsh opinions. For instance, you could say, “I understand you are saying you are frustrated” or “I’m sorry to hear you are frustrated about this.” Repeating it back and summarizing what you’ve heard can make the other person feel validated and heard.

While it may seem odd at first, repeating it back allows you to show you’ve been paying attention. It also gives the customer the opportunity to correct you if you misheard them. If you’ve got it wrong, thank them for correcting you and continue the conversation. 

You can even use a call recording app to help keep track of your calls and improve your sales technique. Perhaps you can spot a place where you think you could have better phrased a question. 

3. Look for nonverbal cues 

There are all sorts of verbal cues to look for, such as facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures that explain what a person is truly saying. Pay attention to the other person’s body language. For instance, sitting with their legs or arms crossed could mean they are feeling defensive or uncomfortable. 

If you take emailing out of the equation, a lot of communication is nonverbal. Even over the phone you can pick up on nonverbal cues, such as tone of voice. This can be useful for guiding the call, including what questions you may wish to ask them going forward.

We live in a world where it’s standard practice to communicate via video call or over the phone. On a video call you can still detect boredom, irritation or sadness very quickly. These cues are not to be ignored on sales calls. Remember that what the customer actually says only counts for part of the bigger picture. 


4. Focus your attention

Ensure that you are placing your full attention on the other person. Looking distracted or disinterested can be off-putting to the customer and discourage them from taking anything further. Should you need to concentrate, try repeating their words in your head when they’re talking to reinforce what they’re saying.

If possible, shut out other conversations going on around you, this may be tricky if you’re operating from a call center. Those who work remotely using a business VoIP phone system may find it easier to focus their attention. 

5. Mirror the speaker

When we’re speaking to someone, we often experience empathy when it comes to their emotions. For example, if they’re feeling sad you might express feelings of sadness. If they are happy, this may also impact your mood and make you feel happy. Do the same when it comes to customer relations. Mirror the speaker.

Try to convey those feelings through your facial expressions and what you say. That shows you are listening and are in tune with what they’re talking to you about. Being empathetic is a top quality of a salesperson. Put yourself in the customer’s place and imagine the kind of response you’d like to receive. This can improve your communication and allow them to feel seen. 

Mirroring the facial expressions of your speaker can also be a sign indicative of active listening. This can further help you to show empathy to their concerns.


6. Don’t interrupt

When you interrupt someone it sends a clear message; you think what you have to say is more important than what they’re trying to tell you. Some may also interpret it as not caring what the other person thinks, not having time for the conversation, or not caring to hear the other person’s opinion. 

Although we all think and speak at different rates, there’s no need to cut in and interrupt what someone is saying, especially when it’s a customer during a sales call. When you’re listening to someone explaining a problem, try to refrain from suggesting solutions straight away. Instead, listen to what the customer is saying and gather as much information you need before you offer any assistance. 


The benefits of talking less

1. You stand out

By talking less and listening more you are able to stand out from among the other salespeople. Those who don’t possess the skill of active listening are likely to talk over future prospects and not pay attention to what’s being said. 

You will stand out because your approach is friendlier and more real, as you actively listen to the customer, answer their questions and mirror their actions. You can keep the talk less “salesy” and more authentic, thus building a genuine relationship with the client. 


2. You gain knowledge

When you talk less you’re opening yourself up to more possibilities. You can gain knowledge and actionable insights far more easily. The more you let your customer speak, the more information you get. 

This can include information regarding their issues, challenges, goals, budget and decision-making process. It could mean you build a rapport so strong the customer feels comfortable giving up information they weren’t initially prepared to share. And the more information you have about the customer, the more detailed service you can provide. 

3. You make customers feel valued

If a customer feels like they have your genuine undivided attention, they are likely to feel valued and appreciated. When you give this attention to someone, they are more likely to be honest and open, sharing ideas and detailing their needs. 

When it comes to sales, giving customers the freedom to articulate their thoughts and feelings is incredibly valuable. This not only helps you improve what you do, but it also shows them they are cared for and valued. 

4. You make fewer errors

Everybody makes mistakes. Silly mistakes are frustrating, but sometimes inevitable. By actively listening, you are minimizing the chance for mistakes to occur because you are opening the floor to the other person, allowing them to express themselves without judgment. 

From this, you can listen intently and ensure you completely understand what they are saying. Active listening can save you further down the line as you have already used techniques such as repeating and mirroring to comprehend exactly what is being asked of you. That’s the difference between just hearing and actively listening.


5. You earn attention when it’s your turn to speak

Now, when it’s your turn to speak, the other person will be more inclined to pay you the same attention you paid them. People often like to reciprocate gestures and emotions, and the same goes for the relationship between you and the customer during the sales process.

They are more likely to listen to you when you’re describing how you can solve their pain points, and how your product is the most effective solution on the market to tackle their company’s unique challenges. This effective way of communicating can help you close the deal faster. 


Talk less, listen more, to close deals faster

As we know, selling involves a lot of talking. Good communication is crucial when it comes to building client relationships and closing deals. In sales, you have to be able to make calls, create proposals, give presentations, negotiate terms and persuade prospects to buy what your company is offering. By talking less and listening more, customers will feel more inclined to listen to what you can bring them. They will feel valued, appreciated and listened to. 


Learning the art of listening 

Now you have the right tools to perfect the art of active listening. Articulate what you have to say, and position yourself as a must-have option for the client. Communicate your company’s benefits in a friendly and non-salesy way to make yourself more approachable and likable. 

After all, clients just want an honest salesperson that actually understands their questions and concerns. 

Remember to focus your attention, mirror the speaker, look for nonverbal cues, ask questions, repeat their intentions back to them and don’t interrupt. By closing your mouth and opening your ears more, you just might find that customers are more susceptible to what you have to offer.

Tanhaz Kamaly is a partnership executive at Dialpad, a modern cloud-hosted business communications platform that turns conversations into the best opportunities, both for businesses and clients. He is well-versed and passionate about helping companies work in constantly evolving contexts, anywhere, anytime. 

  • Originally published June 13, 2022, updated April 26, 2023