Sales Coaches Tell You To Listen, But For What Specifically?

As a sales leader, you know the golden rule: 80/20. 20% of your time during a sales call should be spent talking to your lead, while the other 80% should be spent listening. Sounds good right? No. It's a trite rule with 0% application to closing sales if you don't have the context that goes into what that 80% listening time is made of. And honestly, the 20% talking portion is misleading as well. 

You need to know what the heck it is you should be doing in a sales call to win. And it's not STTS, "sticking to the script." And it is never, ever leading with your pitch. Sure, you need to hit bullets. But those bullets are essentially blanks if you're not leading your conversation with deep, active listening and relationship building. 


Here are 4 simple steps for identifying the touch-points that close.

What you need to know is how to build a deep relationship with the human on the other end of your phone call. You need to know how to become a good sales doctor. Think about it. Would you prefer a doctor that, instead of listening to your symptoms and gathering context behind them, just simply pushes pills at you when you walk into her office? No. That's just lazy and negligent.

What you'd prefer, if I can make an assumption about you, is a doctor that you've built a connection with, checks up on you and your symptoms and asks  questions that lead toward the right diagnosis, providing you with an opportunity to better understand the cause and solution of your ailment.

Sales really isn't any different. Be a good doctor and follow these tips.

#1 Opportunities to Connect


"Hi, this is Janice over at RealTech. How are you today?"

"Oh, I'm fine. Just enjoying this nice breezy day in Chicago, about to watch a Bears game with my wife. She's a big Redskins fan so we're playing rivals today."

"That's cool. Anyway, I have this service that I think you need. It's only $49-"


"Hello? You still there?"

Not a surprising end to that conversation. Janice had an incredible, low-hanging opportunity to connect with her lead in endless ways. She could have connected via:

  • Chicago - "I've been to Chicago. I love it. Have you lived there long?" 
  • Weather - "That sounds beautiful. It's raining pretty hard here in Seattle."
  • Football - "Oh yeah? How are the Bears looking this year? I have to say I've always been partial to the Saints."
  • Relationships - "That's so funny! What's it like living with the enemy?"

But instead, she jumped right into her scripted sales pitch (and essentially blew it). Don't be like Janice. 

WTF Janice

Taking the time to get to know your prospect at a personal level is the best way to gain trust, and even uncover some deep insights into the kind of person they are. That's not something to take lightly. Understanding personalities, interests and aspirations is the key to unlocking the questions and wording that will pique interest and ultimately help you to seal the deal. 

Without this connection, you're just another sales pitch. Another spam caller. Another annoyance in their life. Another Janice.

Sorry, Janice.

#2 Empathy

I'm not talking about the whole "you poor thing" bit. This is about really understanding and relating to the passions and pains on this particular person's path in life. 

You should look at a sales call the same way you engage in conversations with the people you care about the most. You need to listen with empathy and respond genuinely. 

Think about it. When it comes to our friends and our families, listening, truly listening to each other's griefs, goals, short-comings and achievements, is the glue that builds our strongest relationships. When our friend is having a hard day, we don't prescribe them a boxed answer. We grab a drink with them and listen to what is ailing them. We sit back and absorb it and, when it is appropriate, we offer our understanding, we relate and we act as a dousing rod by which they can come to the conclusion themselves. 

(If you don't do that for your friends, please copy that paragraph, hang it on your wall. Your friends will thank you for it. I don't need the credit, don't worry.) 

When you're on a sales call, you need to listen. Don't jump the shark and reference your brand or your product at the sound of a pain point. No matter what your script says, that is not how to close a lead.  

Instead, absorb what your prospect is saying. Hear their short-comings. Hear where they wish they were right now. Hear what is slowing them down from getting there. Ask questions that allow your lead to think deeper, pave a new road of thought into these points. Lead them to an answer indirectly. Let the bait linger before you even think about pulling it out of the water. Let your caller know that you're listening, that you care, and that you are invested in their success. 

Like a friend. 

#3 Time

Believe it or not, Ripley, but the more time you spend on a phone call with a lead, the more likely you are to close. 

In 2016, the average sales call was 119 seconds. In 2017 it was 254 seconds. In 2018, I have no doubt that it will double again.  

The more time you spend with a prospect, the more you get to know them, the more you can offer free advice and leverage your experience to help them succeed. Build that relationship. You, the expert, aren't in this to squeeze pennies. You're in this because you like to help people and their businesses grow, and you know you can do that. 

And don't think that your call has to end with a sales pitch either. In fact, it takes an average of 18 calls to fully connect with a lead and convert them to a buyer.

Your goal isn't to burn time on the phone. Just because you haven't closed a deal over the phone in the first 20 minutes, or even the first 3 calls, doesn't mean you're not spending your time efficiently. Spending more time with one caller will have you closing more deals than leading with a pitch to 10 callers for a minute each. It takes time to build a relationship. What did you think this was, Sales Speed Dating?  

#4 Plan for Success

sales playbook

At the end of the day, if you've been listening during your calls and still are on the phone, you know your service is the right choice. You know that if they're trying to get from point A to point B and thingy C is the hurdle holding them back, that your product is the jetpack they need to leapfrog their way to success. 

But they don't! And the idea of buying a tool, especially from a salesperson (no offense) is scary and uncomfortable. 

But because you've built a relationship based on personal connection, empathy and time, their guard is lowered.

They are amenable.

Time to go for the script...

No it's not!

That was a trick, I thought you'd learned by now.

Tsk Tsk.

If you really want to win with your prospects, you need to help them build a plan for success. Your product is a stepping stone, or a brick in the wall, or whatever analogy you want to use for it being a component of your lead's plan, but not the whole picture. If you're really in this to help people succeed (and you should be for the benefit of your business) then you need to help prospects see the big picture. Put yourself in the role of their advisor, and help them to craft their next big move. And, of course, insert your service into that roadmap.

Were You Listening?

Ultimately, when you're talking with prospects, you need to know who you're talking to. Yes, building your relationship with them is key, but you have a short window in that first-impression zone to get that opportunity. 

If you want to be really successful, you need to get a head start. And that happens before you pick up the phone. Collect information about your lead using sales tools like a CRM, segment your contacts (maybe even decide which unique persona best fits them), and build individual relationships out of  "how-to" strategies. Track everything - your successes and your failures. Learn from your experiences. As you grow, you'll get better at using your collected information, and at applying that information to the persona your lead fits into. And then boom, you're on your way towards relationships that close. 

If you want to learn even more tips to level up your sales team's impact, we've got just the ebook for you.

Refreshing Your Sales Strategy

Want more tips on leading your sales call to a close? Check out some of my other blog posts, especially this one: Getting Back to Selling. I think you'll like it.