Do you listen Enough?
Societal pressures force us to invest an inordinate amount of time and attention towards improving our ability to speak. There are organisations like Toast Masters that are designed, specifically to support us to not only speak well, but to become comfortable at speaking in public, too. As someone, who speaks every day for a living, it would be amiss for me to suggest that the ability to speak affectively, is not a crucial life skill.
Learn to Listen
My challenge is that with all the attention we give towards becoming powerful public speakers, we lose sight of another crucial life skill, namely the ability to “LISTEN” effectively. The other half of communication, namely the ability to “REALLY LISTEN”, to what other people are saying, so that they feel heard and that you are able to formulate an effective response is forgotten altogether.
When involved in any attempt to positively influence someone to understand your perspective or said differently “TO SELL” something to someone. Listening becomes critical. When people feel heard and they feel that you have understood their needs, values and expectations, they will reward you with their trust and loyalty. Both of which are crucial for any sales professional to close any sale or for them to build long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with their future customers.
Tips to help you to “REALLY LISTEN”
Don’t focus on what you are going to say next
When speaking to someone, be fully in the moment and listen to what they are saying. I know this sounds obvious, but as you know, people are so concerned about what they need to say next, that they do not really hear what the other person is saying. Think about why most people can’t remember the names of the people they have just met. This is not because they have a poor memory; it is simply because they do not really listen to what other people say.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person, who is speaking to you. How do you feel when someone seems distracted whilst you are talking to him or her? I know I find it annoying, frustrating and disrespectful. Do any of those negative motions, sound like the kind of emotions, you want to bring out in any sales conversation?
When someone is speaking, learn the art of being present in the moment. Make eye contact and show authentic interest in not just what they are saying, but also note their tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.
Walk in their shoes
Good listeners have the ability to be empathetic. They learn not only listen, but to also show authentic caring.
When listening to other people try to put yourself in their shoes, so that you can better understand and appreciate their perspective. Your ability to show real caring and understanding will support you to be empathetic towards their situation and they will appreciate the effort you have made to really understand their perspective.
Restate what you have heard
One of the best ways to show you are listening is to restate what you have just heard. When the other person has finished speaking, restate what you have just heard in your own words. You can make this process even more powerful, by asking for additional clarity on any points, you did not completely understand.
When listening to a future customer, who is speaking. It is always good practice to restate, what you have just heard, so that you are certain that you have understood what they have just said. This is absolutely crucial when answering a future customer, who raises an objection.
Example: A future customer may have raised an objection about the suitability of your product to work in their specific environment. Before blundering blindly into answering and potentially adding to your future customers concerns – Restate what you think the objection is before answering. This will ensure that you have completely understood them, before answering.
Become an Active Listener
Ensure that you make eye contact and that you are actively engaged in any conversation. Use facial cues, like smiling to show interest and nod where appropriate, to show the other person that you are “REALLY LISTENING” to them.
Completely focus on what your customers are saying. One of the ways I do this during customer engagements is to make notes, whilst in any sales meeting. Whilst doing this I look up regularly, making eye contact and showing authentic interest in what my future customers are saying.
This simple practice serves two purposes, firstly the customer feels that what they are saying is important enough to be recorded and secondly I have effective notes that serve me when preparing my proposal.