One Sales Pitch Doesn't Fit All

The Rules of Aggressive Listening

Aggressive listening gives you the chance to expand any conversation, clarify the real meaning of the words the prospect uses and control the direction of the sales conversation.

Aggressive listening means you're empathetic to the emotional state of the customer and that you read body language as well as spoken language. Being in tune with your prospect's nonverbal communication allows you to recognize when you may be losing his or her attention, and makes it easier to reconnect.

Here are some simple "aggressive listening" skills that will give you an exact fit:

  • Clarify assumptions. What are you assuming about the prospect? Their needs and wants? The amount they may have budgeted for a solution? How about the timing? Are they ready to buy today? What preconceived ideas do your customers have about you and your company?

Question every assumption, even the minor ones. An incorrect assumption is the number-one reason for a stall at the end of the sale.

  • Stay on guard for your prospect's hidden agenda. Be on the lookout for an emotional plea from your prospect. Comments like, "Trust me on this one," "Would I lie to you?" "If you really want to know what's going on, talk to me" should set off alarms. Direct the conversation back to the solution you're working on. The customer's reluctance to return to the sales conversation lets you know you might be dealing with the wrong person and may need to reevaluate the entire sale.
  • Ask questions if you don't understand what your customer is saying. Most people fail to ask questions because they're afraid of looking ignorant. People love to talk about themselves and will jump at the chance to explain all the points you need clarified, often in great detail.
  • Pay attention to how comments are made. Actions speak louder than words. Be aware of the voice qualities when you're talking to your prospect. Listen for changes in volume, pitch, tempo, timbre and speed. If you notice these qualities change when the prospect is talking about a particular subject, ask for clarification.
  • Question words that aren't specific. Ask for details. Words like "they," "them," "it" and "there" are vague. Whom specifically are they referring to? What particular item did they mean? What was the exact location?
  • Question absolutes. Common expressions like "everybody," "always," "must," "have to," "always" and "never" need clarification. Ask your prospect what he means when he says "everyone" or why he thinks something is a "must."

Like a great tailor, be sensible. Will all these points guarantee a perfect fit? No. However, if you take the time to measure every customer, you'll be remembered and referred. In sales, it's your job to fit the clothes, not make them.


James Maduk is one of North America's leading sales speakers. He is the creator and publisher of more than 80 online sales training courses, and he broadcasts daily on VirtualSelling Radio. You can reach James at (613) 825-0651 or visit his Web site at www.jamesmaduk.com.

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