The Power of Genuine Listening

Listening is one of the most important skills you can learn in life and in business. As the old adage goes “You were born with two ears and one mouth” for a reason. The art of listening is also an essential skill when making a sale. Yet, being a good listener is hardly the personality that comes to mind when you think of a classic stereotype of someone who works in sales. In fact, we think of someone who instead is ebullient, larger-than-life, gregarious and talkative!

Corporate character talkative for business presentations and corporate

However, newer models of sales would suggest that a more consultative approach to helping a client is best: using the power of listening and questioning to take the prospective client on a journey from just being aware of your brand, to believing in what you say and ultimately to a position of trusting you. By adding value and understanding our prospects better, we are ultimately moving away from the classic model of cold-calling and typical closed, transaction- based selling techniques.

At A-Plan, we would argue that this is something we have always believed in. Our business model has always been to listen to our clients to best determine their needs and then find them the right insurance product to meet those needs. By having a two-way dialogue, our insurance consultants, who are not incentivised by commission and who are qualified to provide impartial insurance advice, spend as much time as necessary talking through the client’s requirements. This also means that we are able to manage insurance risks more intelligently.

couple of dogs talking on the can phone isolated on white background

We have been providing this high-touch, personal service across our branch network since the 1960s. Indeed, as buying insurance has become more of an impersonal experience with call centres processing calls and comparison websites making prospective clients do all the work to find the right product, we have continued to believe in the opposite approach.

In this digital age, how do we then remain relevant as a business? By continuing to do what all long-standing, successful businesses do – listening to our clients. We continue to do this on the phone and in person in our branches. These days, however, we also recognise the need to do this online. Listening to what people are saying about us on forums and on social media helps us to gain insights about our clients and our prospective clients as well as solving problems and answering queries in real time. This supports and supplements the work that our branches do during business hours. Moreover, it can help us better engage with our clients, generate new leads and spot further business opportunities.

A further benefit of social listening is that we are able to identify both positive and negative feedback – allowing us to show appreciation for positive testimonials and share this earned content with our wider audience, but also to respond in a timely fashion to disappointed clients and to turn potentially negative experiences into positive ones. The ability to respond so quickly, before an issue escalates is a real game changer.

customer satisfaction survey concept with smile and button

However, it is not enough to just pay lip service. The “listening” has to be followed up by a response which is both authentic and timely. It is important to remember that even though the media is digital, you should still act as if you were having a face-to-face conversation with that person. You need to demonstrate understanding and empathy and that means engaging with that person on a human level. As a company, if you respond without caring and without really hearing how you have disappointed that person, you can actually make the situation worse. The principles of good customer service should remain, whatever media you are using.

There are many examples of companies using a copy and pasted, pre-approved legal response and it going badly wrong or just not responding at all. These have a nasty habit of being shared on social media, making a bad situation even worse.


It has been important to have a reliable social listening tool in place for A-Plan, one we can trust to pick up the comments that we might miss through the normal notification processes for social media accounts. It’s also really helpful from a management point of view to be able to access everything from one platform and to collaborate as a team through that platform. SocialSignIn has been an excellent solution for us as a business for these reasons and we are delighted that they are now rolling out email and mobile push notifications to back up the alerts that come through the desktop platform. To see SocialSignIn for yourself – book a demo today.

helen-costinAbout the Writer:

Helen Costin has been working at A-Plan’s marketing team in their head office in Witney since September 2015. Her main responsibilities are content creation for the brand including their website, blog, marketing emails, print copy and for their social media channels. In addition, she looks after their client feedback channels (surveys, reviews, testimonials) and social listening. She’s incredibly passionate about social media marketing and also about the role of content in supporting a brand’s marketing strategy.

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