Moving Up the Five Levels of Listening Boosts Sales Success

Last week, FEI sales leader Zoot educated young salesperson Ganymede on how asking for an order can help close the sale. This week, Zoot teaches Ganymede how becoming a “professional listener” can enhance his selling ability. Remember, fire = print.

It was lunchtime at FEI and everyone was heading to Demeter’s Cafe, but Zoot had to stay in his office to finish up some paperwork. Ganymede, one of FEI’s newest salespeople, brought Zoot back a sandwich and soup.

Zoot examined the sandwich and frowned.“Thanks for bringing me lunch. But I’d asked for no tomatoes!”

Ganymede smacked a hand to his forehead. “Sorry! I didn’t even hear that.”

Zoot decided to give the young salesperson a lesson. “You’ve been at FEI a few months now, right? How would buyers rate your sales performance so far? Please be honest—you’re not on trial.”

Ganymede shifted uncomfortably. “I’m a skilled closer. They say I’m good at ignoring the word, ‘No.’”

“But have you built relationships with these fire buyers by letting them know you hear and understand their concerns?” Zoot asked. “Or have you just plowed through their objections until they relent?”

“Probably the latter,” Ganymede admitted.

“I know why,” Zoot said. “It sounds like most of the time you’re only listening at level 3.”


“Salespeople can listen at five different levels,” Zoot explained. “As you’ll see, listening at some levels is more likely to lead to sales—and strong customer relationships—than listening at others.” He pulled a piece of coal from his toga and began writing on the office whiteboard:

Level 1 – Ignoring. Listeners at this level are very self-centered, and not likely to succeed in sales or customer service positions.

Level 2 – Pretend listening. This occurs when salespeople give the appearance of listening—nodding their head, looking the person in the eyes, etc.—but really they aren’t. If you don’t stay tuned in to what a customer says, you run the risk of not hearing valuable information that can help you close a sale. Plus, customers rightfully conclude that salespeople who dance around or don’t care about their concerns either don’t want to or can’t solve their problems.

T.J. Tedesco is a sales growth, business strategy, marketing and PR consultant operating at the intersection of clear vision, compelling content and effective outreach practices. For nearly two decades, T.J. has been an independent consultant and sales growth team leader. Previously, he sold commercial printing, graphic arts machinery and supplies, and finishing and bindery services. T.J. helps North American companies with content development, Web and print design leadership, nurture marketing programs, sales coaching, sales team alignment and business strategy. Since 1996, T.J. has worked with more than 100 clients on retainer, 80 percent in the graphic arts industry. T.J. is author of "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning," "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry," "Fire! How Marketing Got Hot," "Direct Mail Pal" and four more books published by PIA. He can be reached at (301) 404-2244 or
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