10 Essentials: Great Communicator vs. Great Listener

The fourth in series of ten posts in a series titled: 10 Essential B2B Sales Rep Attributes (and their 10 Essential Opposites).

finale_main_image_789x349If you have not seen the first three seasons of Mad Men, buy them from iTunes, go to the library and borrow them, or set up your DVR to record them. It is one of the best ever television shows on sales and selling. The main character, Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), is a great communicator. The character has a tremendous ability to communicate ideas that persuade the prospects and clients of his advertising firm, Sterling Cooper, as evidenced here.

The Great Communicator

One of the most valuable attributes a salesperson can possess is the ability to clearly and effectively communicate ideas. Great salespeople have this ability and the accompanying benefit of being able to use it to persuade or influence people. Salespeople with poor communication skills (both oral and written), have a tougher time making their message clear and lose the trust and confidence of their prospects.

What happens when a salesperson can’t come up with the words or the message that would influence the prospect to take action? A lost opportunity. What is the result when the great communicator with a mediocre product or service goes up against the poor communicator with a great product or service? The great communicator often wins.

But the dark side of this powerful attribute is that the great communicator uses this skill too much. Because they can speak, because they can entertain, and because they can tell a great story, they do. Heaven forbid they get too excited about their product or service; there is no stopping them. Because their skill is in speaking, they speak when they should do something else equally or more powerful.

The Great Listener

Listening is a form of communication with a more powerful impact than speaking. When you listen you convey they message that the person who is speaking is important and that what they have to say is interesting and important to you. Listening is one of the most powerful ways we communicate that we care about the other person and their ideas. The person speaking can see and feel that you are truly listening. This generates a trust and a confidence that is difficult to match by anything you might say.

What is the danger for those that don’t (or can’t) listen? They convey an important message too, one they may not mean to convey. Their message is: “What you have to say is not important enough for me to listen to.” Too often this is the curse of the great communicator: they are working on what they will say next instead of listening with the intention of of understanding and demonstrating that they care.


A great salesperson must possess the ability to communicate. This includes the ability to communicate that they care, which is done most effectively by listening. As in each of the prior the three essential attributes, this is a difficult balancing act.

One of my great mentors in sales had the ability to ask three or four questions on a sales call, saying very little, but expressing how much he cared by listening. He made more deals with fewer of his own spoken words than I believed was possible then (or now). At the time, I struggled to understand how he won deals without communicating our ideas or our value proposition. It took me years to learn that he communicated something far more important. Something he communicated without words.


  1. How much time on a sales encounter do you spend speaking? How much listening?
  2. Divide the first number by the second number. This is the Caring Ratio. If it is higher than 1, you are talking too much.
  3. Are your speaking skills what they should be? Have you joined Toastmasters?
  4. What is the message you are communicating when the prospect or client is speaking?
  5. What could you do to convey a more powerful message when the client is speaking? Who would you have to be in order to convey that message?

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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