By Todd Brian Natenberg

Author of the just released book, "I've been in sales for 10 years! Now what?" A (NEW) Playbook for Skyrocketing Your Commissions


There is no better way to distinguish yourself from your competitors than to summarize your prospects' needs- out loud- after probing, and prior to your presentation.

When you summarize, you prove you listened, not that you heard.

What's the difference?

Hearing is simply not being deaf. But listening entails a three-step process.

At TBN Sales Solutions, we call it the A.R.T. method: Acknowledge, Repeat and Take action.


Have you ever had a one-way conversation where you do all the talking? Isn't that just as annoying as when someone else does all the talking? You feel like you are talking to a brick wall, don't you?

Then, when you address the situation, what's the other person's response? "I heard you. What was I supposed to say? I didn't know it called for a comment," they say.

What the other person doesn't understand is that you wanted acknowledgement. You needed to understand they heard your words. Ways to acknowledge include nodding your head with direct eye contact, positive or negative facial expressions depending on the situation and verbal comments, such as "I understand" or "I know what you mean."


Typically, when salespeople acknowledge a prospect, they feel they've listened. But this is just the first step. The second step is actually repeating what was just said to ensure you interpreted it properly. Don't dissect every sentence. Just hit the high points. If you did not get every point down, repeat what you remember.

By hearing you repeat it, the prospect will be so impressed that what you leave out won't matter.

Take Action

This proves you truly understand the prospect's needs. What you say or do next must be a direct response to the answers provided. Many sales reps have lost deals or won deals at this step. Here's an example of what not to do:

During my telecommunications corporate training days, a rep and I probed one prospect with good questions. We reached the point where the prospect told us, "What really matters to me are reliability and customer service. Price is not the issue. If you can guarantee me your company can provide these two criteria, you will earn my business."

The rep's response was, "Great, let me show you how we can save you money. By switching to us, we will lower your rate." The meeting ended 10 minutes later. We never heard from the prospect again.

Here's how a top-notch summarization may sound:

"Okay, Prospect So-and-So. Let me summarize what you said. You have been with the company for 10 years. You came here from Idaho because you found it to be a great opportunity. One of the key reasons for the company's success is customer service. Your company sells to small and mid-sized businesses. You are the one who would 'sign on the dotted line.' What is important to you now is billing, customer service and a competitive price. Is there anything I left out?"

"No? Great. Now, let me explain how based on your situation, we can help."