A salesperson spends about 70% of his waking hours in communication with others. A study at the University of Minnesota shows that communications activity is spent as follows: 9% in writing; 16% in reading; 30% in talking; and 45% in listening. There are courses in reading, writing, and speaking, but not much in listening. Since a salesperson spends 45% of his time listening, he must work to improve his listening habits and skills.
Questions are important. But it’s not really the questions that are so important; it’s the answers. A salesperson must listen skillfully to determine the true meaning of the reply and to keep from missing important information that can lead to the satisfaction of the customer and the sale.
One of the main reasons a salesperson doesn’t do a good job of listening is that he doesn’t pay attention. Being a good listener takes work, and many of us are too concerned with preparing what we are going to say when the talker gets through.
Another factor is that many salespeople miss the real point. Sometimes a salesperson becomes more interested in the prospect’s mannerisms, clothes, accent, or voice, and misses what he is really saying. A listener can also pay so much attention to getting every detail that he misses the real meaning.
Another reason is that many salespeople allow their emotions to interfere. Emotion is a barrier to comprehension. Emotions can make us hostile to the speaker or unduly enthusiastic.