7 Tips For Solutions Architects to Listen Effectively

March 27, 2017 Collaboration

We all have conversations on a daily basis in our lives, demanding different levels of attention. While sometimes we are the speaker and sometimes the listener, the general communication process is a two-way engagement that shifts roles throughout the conversation. The challenge in this communications endeavor is knowing when to hold the appropriate role and how to perform that role to the best of our ability, especially in the workplace.

For Sales Engineers, successful communication ultimately leads to successful projects. Conversely, unsuccessful communications can often be traced back to initial meetings where expectations either were not clearly understood (requirements) or the solution was not properly explained (outcome.) I’ll be highlighting seven tips for clearly communicating when it comes to network design and how they play a key role in ensuring projects are a success.

Sales engineers play a key role in understanding client needs and setting client expectations during these initial meetings. Therefore, Sales Engineers rely heavily on good listening skills during client conversations. The key to good listening is to be an active listener, and while many have likely heard this phrase, it is often difficult to fully comprehend. Active listening involves not only hearing what is being said, but processing it internally with an open mind while suspending your opinions and pre-dispositions such that you can interpret what is being said. Taking that a step further, the primary goal of any initial client engagement is to understand why the business has any given requirement which ultimately leads to how and what needs to be done – resulting in a successful project as referenced earlier.

Generally speaking, as a Sales Engineer, one should be listening more than speaking in a meeting, adding commentary when needed for further clarification to ensure a clear understanding of the business requirements and, most importantly, why they are important to a client. A few simple things to remember when it comes to this process (in no particular order) are:

  1. Keep an open mind. No part of the conversation is unimportant. What may seem innocuous initially, may ultimately expose critical information.
  2. Ask open ended questions. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification if you do not understand the answer.
  3. Follow the language and energy of the conversation. Non-verbal cues and tones will often help to determine when further questions are needed and what topics are more important to an individual.
  4. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence. Short pauses are times of reflection and may encourage follow on comments that you may have interrupted
  5. Spend more time understanding why something is needed than what is needed. All too often there are multiple means of solving a problem; knowing why allows for a better understanding of how to resolve the problem.
  6. Understand the client needs – FULLY. While the current business requirement may seem to be a straightforward problem, a clear understanding of the importance of the issue will help define the overall solution.
  7. Approximately 55% of communication is non-verbal. This applies to the speaker and the listener, so posture is important. Pay attention to this and remember that while you are listening and reading posture, the speaker is doing the same with you.

Listening clearly to a client’s needs allows a Sales Engineer to present a clear solution to meet those requirements. Focusing on listening effectively streamlines implementations and ultimately leads to satisfied clients, which is always the end goal at ABS.


Duane servers as ABS’ Director of Solutions Architecture. In addition to staying ahead of the technology curve and working to ensure ABS is constantly providing clients with best in breed technology offerings, Duane manages a team of architects to design infrastructures to support a variety of complementary technologies.