As a sales person, mastering the skill of active listening should be at the top of your priority list.
- It connects you to prospects.
- It closes sales.
- It's what separates the good from the great.
The problem is, it can be challenging to improve this skill without practicing it on a live call or in countless conversations.
Fortunately, I have some activities you and your team can do to improve in a safe environment, before getting on a live call.
Fun fact, most of these techniques I learned in improv class.
See, when I was in high school I was a drama geek. I was the first sophomore accepted into the highest level theater class and I was the Drama Club President my senior year.
The skills I learned in my high school's improv troupe are a big reason I advanced so quickly in sales.
Improv not only helps you with listening, it will help quicken your mind and reduce your natural "fight or flight" response to the unexpected.
In this article I am going to share my three favorite active listening exercises I learned in improve class. Practice these a couple times per week, and I guarantee you'll notice a difference on your sales calls.
Let's dive in.
Why you should do these activities.
It is not lost on me that there are a lot of things you can spend time on. In a world with so much knowledge at our fingertips it can be easy to jump from one educational pursuit to another. Improving your active listening skills should be on the top of your list, and here's why.
- It helps all areas of life, not just sales
- Active listening leads to more meaningful conversations. This impacts your sales conversations as well as your personal ones.
- It directly impacts your income earning potential
- The better you are at active listening the more information you will gain. That information, when used well, will lead to more sales.
- You will never feel "lost" in a conversation
- When you master active listening you will always be able to find something to talk about. This eliminates getting "lost" on a call.
Hopefully, I have convinced you to take these activities seriously. Now, let's dive into them!
Active Listening Activity #1: "You say I say"
Number of people: 2-7
Length of time: 10-30 minutes
Things Needed: Soft object for tossing
The Roles: There is one thrower and a catcher.
The Setup: Select one person to be the first thrower and everyone sits around a table.
The Goal: To be the last person "out."
How to play
- The Thrower starts by saying a word while throwing a soft object to someone else, who is the catcher. The idea behind throwing the soft object is it adds just the right amount of pressure to simulate stress and cause the mind to work harder.
- The catcher must catch the object and say a word that's related to the word said by the thrower.
- Once they say their word they throw the soft object to someone else and around it goes!
- Person 1: House
- Person 2: Windows
- Person 3: Landscaping
- Person 4: Pluto
- Pluto is unrelated and player 4 would be out.
- If anyone says a word that isn't related to the previous word, they are out. Repeat this until someone is the last person standing.
- Advanced: Instead of a word try saying an objection you get on a cold call. The catcher must respond to the objection.
Active Listening Activity #2: "So what I heard is..."
Number of people: 1-5
Length of time: 30-60 minutes
Things needed: Youtube (if playing solo)
The Roles: Speaker and the players
The Setup: Pick one player to be the speaker and the other players sit across from him/her.
The Goal: To summarize what the speaker says and ask a relevant follow up question.
How to play
- The speaker pretends to be a prospect and talks about a pain point they're experiencing.
- After the speaker is done the other players take turns summarizing what the speaker said and asking a follow up question.
- No two players can use the same summary or follow up question.
- 1 player variant: Watch a ted talk and stop periodically to summarize what they said and ask a follow up question.
Active Listening Activity #3: "Continue the story"
Number of people: 4-5
Length of time: 20-40 minutes
Things Needed: Nothing
The Roles: One "pointer" and 3-4 players.
The Setup: Three story details (ex: Magic phone, the DMV, and a paperclip). Select one person to be the Pointer and 3-4 people to play as speakers.
The Goal: To continue the story without stuttering or repeating the previous speakers word.
How to play
- One person is the "pointer" and the other people stand in a line facing him/her.
- The pointer starts by giving the players three details to incorporate into the story.
- After the details of the story are reveled, the pointer points to one of the players who must start telling a story.
- When the pointers finger moves to another player, the speaker must stop and the next player pick up exactly where the previous one left off.
- If a player stutters or repeats part of what the previous speaker said, they are out.
- As the pointer selects different players to start speaking, the players must integrate the three story details.
- Remember, if anyone stutters or repeats a word, they are out.
- This continues until there is one player left. That person becomes the pointer for the next game.
Active listening is incredibly powerful but takes practice. These three activities are designed to help you improve your sales calls, personal relationships, and work life. I've used these activities with great success to help improve my own, and my teams, active listening skills. I am confident if you do these regularly with your team they will make a huge impact!
Here is what to do next. Take some time during your weekly training to try one of these activities. Message me on LinkedIn and let me know how it goes!