January 27

Why Active Listening Skills Are Not Empathetic Listening Skills


Salespeople have heard about the importance of active listening skills for years. They’ve attended sales training workshops where the expert in front of the room told them to read and relate to their prospects and customers. (Just what does that mean anyway?)

Salespeople are told to listen more than they speak.

They learn great discovery questions.


Many sales meetings end up being superficial, transactional sales conversations instead of deeper, relationship building conversations. Why?

Sales professionals often confuse active listening skills with empathetic listening skills.

A salesperson demonstrating active listening skills is able to repeat back what a prospect or customer said.

A salesperson demonstrating empathetic listening skills is able to repeat back what a prospect or customer is feeling.

That’s a big difference.

Repeating back what a person has said is not empathy.

Empathy is stating what a person is thinking or feeling. And often human beings don’t state what they are thinking or feeling because they aren’t in tune with what they are thinking or feeling.

They are busy.

They don’t have time OR they don’t take the time to check in with themselves.

So, when a salesperson can express the unspoken thoughts and feelings of another person, a deep level of connection happens. The prospect thinks, “Wow, this person really gets me…they understand my world.”

 For example, a salesperson that works in the human resource space might say something like, “Ms. Prospect, you haven’t mentioned this, however, you might be wondering if your work culture is going to create the great resignation or the great designation. Would that be of value to discuss?”   

Prospects and customers want to do business with get them and understand their situation, challenges and aspirations.

You can’t add value to a conversation or share “your smarts” if you don’t have a clue as to what is important to your prospect or customer.

Active listening skills confirm what we have heard.

Empathetic listening skills demonstrate that you’ve heard what the prospect or customer is thinking or feeling.

Good Selling!


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