importance of listening

The Importance of Listening

Listening is a skill that isn’t generally taught but perhaps it should be? This article will help you understand the importance of listening and questioning and how these techniques can help you achieve success in sales and life generally.

Questioning and Listening

As well as getting information in the sales process, good questioning and listening techniques also achieve important psychological objectives.

The rules of human communication are:

  1. People prefer talking to listening
  2. People like to be consulted

Another rule of human communication is also ‘people don’t like to be interrogated’.  So, if people like to be consulted but don’t like to be interrogated, the answer is always to try to be consultative in your style of questioning.

Another argument for this approach is the lack of success logic has in persuading people if the emotional vibes are wrong.

How many times have you tried to persuade someone to drop some course of action he/she is planning? You have proved to him/her conclusively that what they intend to do can only end in disaster.  Try as you may, they show little interest in your arguments and go ahead with their plans.  All you foretold comes true, but even then, they are unrepentant.

The basic problem you had in persuading them, lay in your approach. You assumed that logical arguments would prevail, so you piled them up in your support.  The result was that you did not persuade them to change and only compounded their resolve to go ahead.

You achieved this because what you really succeeded telling them was that you thought they were wrong and the more you proved they were wrong, the less chance you gave them of saving face and accepting your ideas.

Few people are prepared to admit that they are just plain wrong.

Most people will, however, accept that there is an alternative possibility and if they are consulted as to what these possibilities may be, they may be further directed by good questions to YOUR ideas.  This is why consultative selling can be so productive.

Listening is important too.  Even in the formal speech situation, a talker should be listening (and watching) their audience to gauge their interest, attention and absorption, but most talking situations will be interactive, and the speaker should be inviting and assessing feedback.

Listening is our main communication activity.  Recent studies have shown that we spend about 80% of our waking hours communicating and at least 45% of that time is spent listening.

Our listening habits are rarely the result of training, but the result of the lack of it. The table below shows the order in which the four basic communication skills are learned, the degree to which they are used and the extent to which they are taught.  Listening is the skill used most, but taught least!

Listening Speaking Reading Writing
Learned 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Used 45% 30% 16% 9%
Taught Least Next Least Next Most Most


Most individuals are insufficient listeners.  Tests have shown that immediately after listening to a ten-minute oral sales presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained approximately half of what is said; and within 48 hours, it is down to 25%.  Think about how much is retained from a 30-minute presentation or after four weeks!

Inefficient and ineffective listening is very costly.  Reports/emails have to be retyped, appointments rescheduled, etc. Ideas get distorted by as much as 80% as they travel through a chain of command.

Good listening can be taught however. In the few schools where listening programmes have been adopted, listening comprehension has as much as doubled in just a few months.

Maybe it’s time to brush up on your own listening skills?  Don’t panic – there is lots of help available in our Communication Skills section.

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