Top Ten Minds in Small Business features Linda Richardson: As Seen in Fortune Small Business

Linda Richardson has some advice for anyone who works in sales: Stop talking and start listening. For 25 years, Richardson has worked with clients like Dell, J.P. Morgan Chase, and General Mills to help their salespeople close more deals. Those companies pay tens of thousands of dollars for her advice.

For most of the 20th century, she says, salespeople lugged around a suitcase full of samples. Today the Internet can give customers far more information in just a few keystrokes, and chances are they will have researched your site before you ever meet them. "The No. 1 mistake salespeople make is pitching their products and ideas too soon and in a generic way," says Richardson. Instead, she says, you need to listen in sales meetings, and when you do talk, ask questions.

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