Identify Customer Needs with Mindful Listening

Listening closely to your prospects and customers can be challenging, especially since the mind can process words at a rate of approximately 500 words per minute, but people talk at a rate of approximately 150 words per minute. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of listening to a customer and realizing your attention has been pulled away by distracting thoughts. You can use mindful listening skills to help you focus on customers, encourage them to talk, and identify their needs and challenges.

One effective mindful listening skill is the technique of paraphrasing what your customers say. I learned about this important skill while in college, working on a telephone crisis intervention hotline. During my training for the job, the supervisor’s instruction to “repeat what the callers say back to them” was confusing. I said, “You want me to repeat what the callers say back to them? Wouldn’t that be awkward?” The supervisor looked at me with a twinkle in her eye. “You think it would be awkward to repeat what the callers say back to them?” I nodded emphatically. “Yes, I do! (pause) Oooh. Now I get it.”

When you repeat your customer’s messages back, it creates understanding and shows the customer you’re listening. It also leaves room for a customer to say, “I didn’t exactly mean that, what I really meant was this.” You can either paraphrase the customer’s words throughout your conversation, or when your customer is finished answering your questions, by saying, “Just so I can make sure I understand . . .,” and then summarize what you just heard.

People love to have someone take an interest in what they say. The more you listen, the more you can learn, and the more you learn, the greater the probability of uncovering a need your product or service can fulfill. You can even practice mindful listening skills with family and friends—they’ll likely appreciate your attention to them!

Mindful Selling: Changing the “Rejection” Story

Top baseball players don’t get a hit every time they’re up to bat. If they get 3 hits out of 10 at-bats, they’re doing great.

Same with top salespeople. They don’t close 100% of their sales. They get a certain number of “no’s.”

Hearing the word “no” is part of the selling process. If customers said “yes” all the time, companies wouldn’t need salespeople; they’d only need order-takers.

But some salespeople can feel rejected and become despondent when hearing “no” all day.

Research out of The University of Michigan suggests that the brain processes rejection the same way it processes physical injury. No wonder people can become despondent!

As a career sales professional and a mindfulness instructor, I’d like to put a different spin on the idea of rejection in sales.

One of the concepts I teach in mindfulness is to become aware of the stories you tell yourself. When a prospect says no, do you tell yourself a story that you were rejected?

Consider instead that the prospect simply is not in a place to engage with you at this time.

Maybe you caught the prospect on a bad day.

Maybe the prospect buys from her brother-in-law.

Maybe anything.

If you’re a sales professional, encountering prospects who are not ready to engage is part of your job.

I recommend meeting each prospect or customer with the expectation of moving the sale forward. However, if you meet resistance, know that it’s part of your job. See if you can understand it, so you can figure out your next step.

Note that I said if you meet resistance, not if you meet rejection. Resistance is about the customer’s state of mind.

And that’s what sales is all about. Focusing on your customer’s state of mind: understanding your customers, discovering their needs, and seeing if you can serve them.

Power Your Sales with Awareness


Developing your power of awareness can help power your sales results.

Awareness can help you recognize your internal experiences, such as negative thoughts that could impede your success. For instance, if you hear the economy is in a slump, do you tell yourself a story that your sales will collapse as well? Once you realize you might be harboring a negative thought, you can release it—and replace it with a positive thought, such as “My sales remain strong in all economic conditions.”

Awareness can also help you clear your mind, so you can focus on your external experience—in a sales situation, that would be what your customers are communicating. As your customers talk, pay close attention to verbal and non-verbal cues to help you build rapport, identify needs, and recognize opportunities.

A great way to develop your power of awareness is through practicing meditation, even for short periods of time. Meditation is like taking time out from chopping the tree to sharpen the axe. Your mind is your main selling tool, so it’s vital to keep it sharp, whether through meditation or other techniques. You can find a variety of 3-minute meditations on: https://soundcloud.com/joyrains. Hope you enjoy!