In sales there are positive financial consequences associated with your ability to listen attentively and effectively. Here are some excellent questions to ask yourself in order to assess and rate your listening skills followed by some thoughts and suggestions that will help you take appropriate corrective actions.
Do I allow the speaker to finish without interrupting?
• This is an important trait of excellent listeners. It is an indication of patience and respect which is appreciated by the prospect or client. It encourages further dialogue and increases the odds that the customer will be willing to open up and share more information with you. It also shows your maturity and desire to better understand people and their perspective in their own words. This builds additional rapport, trust and confidence in you.
Do I listen “between the lines”; that is, for the subtext?
• Much is communicated through body language, facial and hand gestures and innuendo. Picking up on these signals and asking appropriate follow up questions will help you immensely, to uncover key points and what matters most. It is a reflection of your professionalism and shows people a character and quality that is unique and appreciated. Mastering the art of reading between the lines will save you time and help you to secure more business opportunities.
When writing a message, do I listen for and write down the key facts and phrases?
• It is important to take notes however the message can become lost or misinterpreted if all of your energies and concentration are focused purely on writing down an entire conversation word for word. It is essential that you master the ability to capture key facts, thoughts and ideas without missing out on other important elements of the conversation. Learn how to identify key words and phrases and sift through details to capture those points of greatest importance.
Do I repeat what the person just said to clarify the meaning?
• To avoid confusion, misinterpretation and inaccuracy of information you should employ paraphrasing, clarification, qualifying, expanding and other communication techniques for improved listening skills. This also projects additional interest in the prospect’s or client’s needs, wants and desires. It places emphasis on points that seem important to them or it highlights those which you wish to emphasize.
Do I avoid getting hostile and or agitated when I disagree with the prospect or customer?
• The degree to which you react when you hear something that you disagree with is an indication of maturity and your emotional resilience. If you allow comments to rattle you it clouds your thinking and diminishes your ability to listen effectively. In addition it can create unnecessary or undesirable conflict which detracts from your ability to resolve issues, solve problems and arrive at positive outcomes.
Do I tune out distractions when listening?
• If sounds, movement or anything else draws your focus and attention away from conversations you will always miss out on important points, thoughts and ideas. Find ways to protect yourself against this difficulty. You must work on your powers of concentration, by applying acknowledging statements and asking suitable questions when appropriate and if necessary ask people to repeat when you feel you have missed something. Also whenever possible take control of the situation by asking if there is a quieter place or one with fewer distractions in which you can speak.
Do I make an effort to seem interested in what the other person is saying?
• If the prospect or client senses that you are disinterested in what they are saying they will stop offering information and they may potentially become hostile towards you. Remember to maintain eye contact and smile or react appropriately occasionally. Acknowledge that you are listening with varied phrases (i.e. “I see, “That’s nice”, “Thanks for sharing”, “Really!” etc.), that you are hearing and that you understand. Use appropriate physical movement (nod your head, shift your seating position etc.), be attentive and be conscious of posing in positions that indicate your interest.
Quality listening requires energy and effort. You must be prepared to invest your time and interest into hearing and understanding the prospect or customer in order to better comprehend their thoughts, feelings and perspective. It will make an enormous difference in their feelings towards you and as a by product, your income earning abilities.
“You can’t learn a thing while your lips are moving!”
Marshall W. Northcott, Canada’s Sales Expert