Advanced Selling Skills: Customer Focused Sales

Customer focused sales video

Good salespeople get results because they are willing to work hard, invest time and energy, and learn advanced selling skills. Get it out of your head that good salespeople are born that way. They have had training on how to sell effectively. We have already discussed ‘Relationship Selling’ in our last article and now turn our focus to six advanced strategies that culminate in a customer-focused sales methodology that works.

Six advanced selling skills make up this customer-focused sales process, and they are:

  1. Listening,
  2. Asking questions,
  3. Educating,
  4. Collaborating,
  5. Communicating Value,
  6. Coaching to the Close.

In this article, we will focus on the first of these strategies and then continue with the others in our next article.

Listening: The Primary Sales Skill

The Importance of Being an Active Listener

If I were to value sales skills’ importance, ‘active listening’ wins hands down.

In selling, ‘active listening’ is almost a contradiction, as ‘listening’ implies being quiet and still. In contrast, the term ‘active’ in this case refers to the fact that it requires focus, concentration, and mental effort.

It also includes speaking when necessary.

Listening to a customer can’t be so intense that we forget to speak when given the opportunity.

When actively listening, the focus is on the customer, what they think, feel, and want.

You want to consider these things when responding. Learning how to listen effectively requires a strategic approach to selling.

Customer-Focused Selling Begins with Listening.

We often judge and make evaluations before we understand the frame of reference from which the other person is speaking, which is wrong.

We need to listen first.

Listening is critical in the sales process, especially in customer-focused sales, and it now ranges beyond the individual 1 on 1 to include ‘online.’

This means ‘listening’ to conversations on social media, including comments on your blog posts, questions people ask you in Q&A sessions, webinar responses, etc.

You can take advantage of social media monitoring programs such as  Hootsuite and Talkwalker to help you keep track of the conversations you want to follow.

Real active listening should be part of all sales discussions and negotiations. Those who adopt this technique in their sales presentations will stand a much better chance of success.

Active listening training will give you leverage, solve problems in advance and provide customer support through the sales cycle.

“People Look but Don’t See, and Hear but Don’t Listen”

It’s true. People may hear the words the other person says, but they don’t actually listen and try to understand.

In our goal to become sales professionals, it is imperative to understand why this happens.

Here are a couple of the main reasons why this happens.

1. Internal Filters Get in the Way

The art or skill of listening is often interrupted by filters that act as barriers to the active listening process and ruin your sales performance.

Often, these filters come from personal paradigms and beliefs and judgments we make about the prospect.

They could include customers who:

  • Speak more quickly or more slowly compared to your usual speaking speed.
  • Have an accent unfamiliar to you.
  • Use jargon you don’t understand.
  • Give too much detail, some of which is irrelevant, so you switch off.
  • Say something that interests you so much that you stop listening and go off on your own thoughts.

You must become aware of these filters to serve customers better.

2. Distractions and Preoccupations

If you are distracted, you lose your thought process and accuracy. For example:

  • Stress will cause your mind to wander, and you’d rather be doing something else.
  • You’re desperate to make a sale, and your face will tell the whole desperation story. You find yourself planning the next question in your head, trying to drive the conversation to the decision point. The customer can read this one like a book.
  • You’re in pain because you’ve just pulled your back.
  • Never try selling when you are hungry, angry, or tired.

These things and more happen to us all. But you have to set them aside if you want to perfect your listening skills.

Tips on Effective Active Listening

You have a natural ability to listen; however, “active listening” requires work as it is not an innate skill set.

To assist you in taking this to another level, here are some tips that will help you.

  • 80/20 Rule,
  • Think First,
  • Prepare,
  • Eliminate distractions,
  • Body language,
  • Show empathy,
  • Match language,
  • Paraphrase and Echo.

80/20 Rule

You obviously can’t be actively listening and speaking simultaneously, so to be effective with this, try listening to your customer 80% of the time and talking 20%. Again, this is the desired ratio you should aim for in your sales training.

You may have to initially try a 60/40% ratio but aim to get to 80/20.

Think First

It is a natural tendency to jump in and interrupt; however, you must avoid doing this. You lack mind-reading talents and cannot know the customer’s wants and needs. So simply shut up and listen.


It is imperative to spend time preparing. To benefit fully from this customer-focused selling skill, you should attempt to be clear-headed. Give the person your full attention, and don’t try multi-tasking while listening.

For example, don’t check emails or messages instead of giving them your undivided attention.

Eliminate Distractions

Take yourself to a quiet place where you will not be disrupted. Noise and busyness are distractors.

Body Language

Listen with your eyes and heart as well as your ears. People don’t only communicate with words but also with gestures, looks, silences, and so on. So when you actively listen to someone, you’ll pick up things they aren’t putting into words.

Show Empathy

Show empathy, not sympathy. This means seeing the ideas and attitudes expressed from the other person’s point of view. Don’t confuse empathy with sympathy. Sympathy takes over the conversation from the other person and adds your own take on the situation.

You use phrases like “I know what you mean,” – but you can’t know what they mean. So instead, empathize by saying, “That sounds like it was difficult for you,” and ask, “Can you explain what that means to you?”

Match Your Language

Match your language to theirs to reinforce the rapport. Listen carefully to their words and use the same terms in your conversation.

For example, if someone often uses ‘visual’ words like ‘My vision is…’, ‘I see what you mean,’ or ‘I’m going to be looking at that tomorrow,’ then use visual words in your sentences, e.g., ‘let’s look at that together,’ ‘shall we focus on that?’, ‘Imagine you had…’.

Or they may have a key phrase that they use and repeat often. You can use the same words or paraphrase back to them.

Show that you’ve listened to encourage your customer to say more. Use:

  • Paraphrasing: rephrase the other person’s own words and reflect them back to show you’ve heard and understood and want them to elaborate further
  • ‘Echoing’: playback the last word with a questioning tone.

It matters not whether you are self-employed, a small business owner, an executive, a consultant, or a sales pro. The key to better sales is listening and ensuring everyone on your sales team understands this selling process.

Traditional sales techniques did not focus on the needs of the prospect. Instead, they sold products and services based on the deal rather than the customer’s wants and needs.

If you are the decision maker and want to achieve better sales results consistently, think of adapting better active listening skills and sales methodology.

Doing this will undoubtedly boost your sales results.

Next week, we will review other advanced selling skills, so bookmark this post.

This is part 3 on our series on Selling Skills for Self-Employed Small Business Owners. Other articles in this series are:

How to Improve Your Sales Skills as a Small Business Owner
The Power of Relationship Selling
The Skill of Asking Questions
Educate and Collaborate

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