When you mention the qualities you look for in great salespeople, it’s nearly a given that the gift of gab is near the top of the list. Everyone loves a salesperson who can carry a conversation. But in speaking with Brenda Bence, author of Would You Want to Work for You?, I was reminded the ability to listen may be more important.

Bence shared an interesting statistic, which is that English speakers can say 125 to 150 words in a given minute and listen to 400 to 550 words in the same amount of time. The old adage goes that he who speaks first loses. To be a great salesperson you have to listen, but are you doing it effectively? Bence devised an acronymn called I.L.I.S.T.E.N., listing seven steps to consider when you’re on the receiving end of a conversation. They are:

I. Intention

Learn the benefits of listening. You’re in the conversation for a reason, so make it your goal to stay involved.

L. Landscape

Meet in an environment that is conducive to listening. Make sure it’s a quiet place and hang up the “Do not Disturb” sign if need be.

I. Impartiality

Don’t come into the conversation with a preconceived notion of what you’ll discuss. Allow it to flow and listen with curiosity.

S. Safeguard

Like landscape, this is all about staying in the moment. Rid yourself of distractions such as social media and phone calls.

T. Target

Now that you’re in the right place, it’s time to get hyper-focused. Target your brain to pay attention.

E. Empathy

Try to understand the other person’s mindset and to relate to him as he speaks, reassuring him that you empathize what he is saying.

N. No interrupting

For some this is hard, but it’s crucial you don’t sit and wait for your turn to talk. Truly listening takes thought, and thought requires silence. Don’t fear it. Let it resonate so the person feels heard.

Try making a pie chart that shows your ideal ratio of talking to listening, then take an average phone call. When you hang up, see how you did (hint: less talking than you think) and practice on working your way to that point.

Effective listeners become great sales leaders because listening often leads to real connections. Connecting with clients makes them feel valued and instills trust, which is truly priceless.

To read more on this and many other topics, visit Brenda Bence’s website, brendabence.com. And to hear the full interview, click here.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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