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Are You Listening? Or Just Hearing?

2 min readApril 20, 2021

You can’t stop at hearing. You have to listen, too.

There’s a significant difference between hearing and listening.

We use the words interchangeably. Which is a mistake because “hearing” and “listening” have very different meanings. (Just as persuasion and influence mean distinctly different things.)

Hearing is an involuntary process that detects noise (or vibrations).

Listening is a voluntary action you take to make sense of the noises you hear.

You might think that this is a ‘distinction without a difference.’

However, I’m a huge believer in the power of words to shape our behaviors.

When you say “I hear you” to a buyer to acknowledge what they’ve told you, what you’re really saying is “Yeah, I registered that there were noises coming out of your mouth, but I wasn’t actually listening.”

Unfortunately, this is too common an occurrence in our lives.

It’s too easy to perpetuate the myth that you’re so busy that you don’t have time to listen. It’s why sellers default to asking superficial discovery questions and accept the superficial answers they receive in return.

In fact, we are all so busy because we don’t take the time to listen. And to understand. As a result, we’re slowing everything down because we force people to repeat what they’ve told us before.

I have a proven rule of thumb in sales which states that your odds of winning a sale are in inverse proportion to the number of times you ask the buyer to repeat their story (requirements, goals, objectives and so on).

So, it is with anything you’re trying to accomplish in life. Hearing without listening slows things down.

As a seller your job can be simply summarized as follows: Listen to your buyer to understand what is most important to them; and then help them get it.

Making your buyer feel heard and understood is an important source of value to them. They want to work with vendors who they feel truly understand the problem they’re trying to solve and the desired outcomes they want to achieve.

If you’re content to just “hear” your buyer, without slowing down to ask the tough questions, the challenging questions and the necessary follow-up questions that enable you to “understand what is most important to them,” then there’s no way you can help them get it.

There are times in your sales process when you need to speed things up. Investing the time to listen and understand your buyer isn’t one of them.

Want to speed things up? Listen slowly.

Follow Andy on LinkedIn.