Listen Up: The Value of the Sales Conversation Playback

Listen Up: The Value of the Sales Conversation Playback
November 5, 2014

Have you ever had a conversation like this after a sales call?

“I think these guys are going to buy!”

“What? Were you in the same meeting I was in?”

“Yes, they said they care about productivity challenges.”

“Yeah – but didn’t you catch what is going on there because of the merger?”


A bit of an exaggeration – but many times in internal debriefs there is a disconnect between what the client said and what was heard.

There are several reasons why this happens:

  • Salespeople are so busy thinking about what they are going to say that they fail to listen to what is being said

  • They hear a keyword that maps to what they are selling, and that is ALL that they hear

  • The prospect isn’t clear about what their challenges are or provides a partial picture of what is going on

If you are in a meeting and know that you are responsible for restating your prospect’s top 3-to-5 key points, you listen a whole lot differently. And you should, because playing back what you hear in a conversation is integral to the sales process. Think of the benefits:

  1. Your prospect feels listened to, and you validate what you heard

  2. Your prospect will add key points and correct any misunderstandings

  3. You confirm your meeting recap and outline your action items

  4. You can help your prospect organize his or her thoughts with a good playback. Not only will they appreciate this, you will establish trust and gain his confidence

  5. You can “stack the deck,” so to speak, highlighting the things that lead to your solution as the obvious choice.

It’s a great skill to have, and practicing helps develop it. You can add a “What did I say?” playback exercise in your onboarding curriculum. Sales trainers can give a scenario: “I am the VP of Company XYZ and this is my situation,” then have reps play back the key points as they would in a real sales conversation. Sales managers and leaders can also make it part of their coaching, by requiring good meeting summaries sent to prospects after every call, and concise playbacks in account review meetings.

The great thing about the playback skill (and getting sales reps good at it) is that it forces them to let the prospect talk. If reps are dominating the conversation, they are not listening. And if they are not listening, you can’t play back the conversation and reap all those benefits. See how that works?