The TACTIC: Listen to me, please!

Tactics Sales Management


Jim was sitting in his office after hours going over the results of the salespeople during the past month. Aside from being proud of them as a group, he was especially pleased with how Nick had turned around. Just two months ago, thought Jim, if Nick’s customer satisfaction index had stayed the same, I’d be sending him out the door.

Nick always managed to get just enough sales each month to meet his objectives, but his customers consistently indicated that buying from him was less than a satisfactory experience. Jim had seen this before, and the result was selling to that customer once, and rarely again. With the way things were going in the area business climate, the last thing Jim needed was a salesperson turning off customers to repeat buying.

“Repeat buying,” Jim had said to Nick three months before, “is how this company has stayed in business for so long. We have to do something about your customer satisfaction index. What do you think is the problem?”

Nick had looked at everything in Jim’s office but Jim. Finally he mumbled, “I . . . don’t know. Seems that even though they buy from me . . . they don’t like me. Man, I try to make each sale pleasant enough.” With that said, Nick had finally looked at Jim.

“So what are we going to do?” asked Jim.

Again, Nick had looked around the room, finally looking down to his hands and then spoke, “I know it sounds stupid, but try to be friendlier, I guess.”

“Do you want my suggestion, based on what I’ve watched you doing just now?”

Nick looked at Jim. “Sure,” he said.

“I think your customers feel as if you aren’t really listening to them. Just now, twice, when I asked you something, your eyes wandered all over the room and then when you replied, you looked down at your hands, not at me. If I did that to you, what would you think?”

Nick had smiled at Jim’s comment. “You know,” he said, “that’s what my father used to say to me. He always told me that I never listened to him, but I did. Every word. I suppose I’ve been doing the same thing with customers. Never thought of it.”

“Well,” said Jim, “try looking at the folks and speaking to them. It could be just that simple.”


Jim saw in Nick a behavior that while not bad, could appear to a prospect to be inappropriate.


When a customer spends money for anything, there is an assumption on the customer’s part that someone will notice and take a moment to care. How much this care is expressed can range from a “Thanks for coming in” to thank-you notes and future telephone calls to see how the purchase is working out.

What a salesperson may overlook in the desire to make the sale is that the prospect wants the salesperson to appear to be listening to every word before the sale happens. The problem is that a salesperson may be listening, but not appear at all interested.

Was Nick responding to his customers as he responded to his sales manager? Probably. Since he made the sales, he had to be listening. Yet the customers didn’t think so.

Jim could have assumed that Nick wasn’t listening to him either, based on the wandering eyes. Yet because he knew Nick, Jim knew he was paying attention in spite of his expression.

Prospects don’t have the time to get to know Nick as well as Jim does. While Jim could easily have chalked Nick’s wandering eyes up to “that’s just Nick,” he didn’t.

A sales manager must “see” the salespeople just as a prospect “sees” the salespeople. It’s too easy for a sales manager to ignore or overlook certain behavior on the part of the salespeople because he has gotten used to it.


It’s tough to step out of your role as a sales manager and take on the role of a prospect who doesn’t know your salespeople. But that is precisely what you have to do.

Here’s the really hard part. You have to watch the salesperson while he’s working with a prospect yet not listen to what sales managers usually listen to. Don’t listen for product knowledge or what the salesperson says. Observe from the prospect’s viewpoint to see if the salesperson appears to be listening to the prospect.

Close to eighty percent of communication is non-verbal. Watch the salesperson’s non-verbal listening and talking. Does the salesperson connect non-verbally?

Most salespeople are convinced that the sale is made by what they say out loud and when they say it. The truth is that while the out loud information is important, what is passed non-verbally between the prospect and salesperson is even more important.


Put yourself in the prospect’s place to really know how well your salesperson communicates.

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