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. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.
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