When it comes to developing your sales team, there are dozens of sales methodology programs, each with a proprietary approach that suggests it has unlocked the key to selling. Not one of them recommends you leave it up to neuroscience.

However, consider this: By understanding the mechanism of listening, we discover that hearing happens in our ears, while how we make sense of what we hear — what we call “listening” — happens in our brains. Additionally, no two brains are alike, suggesting that no two buyers listen the same way. Each of us filters what we hear in a different way. If your sales teams know how buyers listen, they have the opportunity to alter the way they present and communicate their message.

Neuroscience may not be the first place you’d consider when looking to improve your sales team’s close ratio, but one golden nugget uncovered through neuroscience research categorizes the vast ways everyone listens into four distinct preferences. Once you learn the unique characteristics of these four listening styles, it will be clear how neuroscience can teach your sales team that improving their listening will ultimately improve their revenue numbers.

The 4 Listening Preferences

Let’s take a look at the four listening preferences to better understand this concept:

1. Connective Listening

Connective listening focuses on the effect information has on others. It’s oriented toward feelings, missing facts and details.

2. Reflective Listening

Reflective listening focuses on the effect information has on themselves, filtering what they hear through their own interest and purpose.

3. Analytical Listening

Analytical listening focuses on facts, data and information that is proven and accurate. It may miss feelings and other subtle cues.

4. Conceptual Listening

Conceptual listening focuses on the big picture and ideas. It is often abstract and unhindered by structure, but it may miss important details along the way.

The 4 Preferences in Sales

Consider for a moment your team’s listening styles: Do they know what they focus on and what they tend to filter out? When meeting with a client or prospect, what kind of information are they hoping to hear? Do they look to build rapport by listening to what is important to their buyer, personally, or do they listen for facts and figures?

Most of us see the value of listening on the surface but are surprised that listening filters are individualistic and so important. There are two areas of the communications sales professionals have with buyers where developing their listening skills will increase the likelihood of advancing the sale:

    • Their own listening: Salespeople should plan what they are going to listen for.
    • The buyer’s listening: Salespeople should learn the distinct clues that will help them diagnose their buyers’ listening preferences.

Your salespeople prepare for each client engagement, but do they ever consider their listening focus? Since listening is a habit, we usually do it on autopilot. We may try to “listen better” or stay attentive, but we can actually change our listening filters to pick up unique kinds of information. It’s an easy addition to the process of preparing for any sales meeting. On the flip side, salespeople can observe what their buyer is filtering in and out, often by the questions they ask or the responses they give them during a meeting.

Imagine if a sales representative understood that her own everyday preference in listening tended to be conceptual (loving to brainstorm, ideate and live in possibility) and recognized a specific buyer as more of a reflective listener (interested in how information would affect him, his job and his future). If that salesperson practiced her habitual listening preference (conceptual), the buyer may tune out quickly, wishing for more concrete information that indicated how the partnership would support him and his work rather than just throwing out ideas.

However, if the salesperson prepped for listening ahead of time and observed from the start of the engagement the sort of questions the buyer asked, she could shift how she shared information. Instead of speaking about possibilities and big picture brainstorming, she could bring the conversation back to reality by including statements about how the partnership would support the buyer’s job or even advance his career. The content of her message would not change, but the context and delivery would make the information more accessible to the buyer.

We Speak the Same Way We Like to Listen

Teaching your sales team to understand and distinguish among the four listening preferences can provide a substantial boost in connection and engagement. By learning their own preferences, they’ll enhance their communication even beyond listening, as we tend to share information or speak with the same preferences or filters we use when listening. That way, they won’t miss the mark by sharing the information the way they prefer to hear it rather than adjusting to the preferences of their buyer.