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Failure to Communicate

A lot has been said and is written about active listening. Being a successful sales person is predicated on how well you listen. So why are so few people good at it? I was fortunate to have spent a fair amount of time being formally trained on how to be a better listener at The Improv Olympic (I.O. Chicago)

Good listening is the key to building great relationships both personally and professionally. But it takes effort

Keith Rosen of the All Business Blog says "To listen actively and thoroughly takes concentration, hard work, patience, the ability to interpret other people's ideas and summarize them, as well as the ability to identify nonverbal communication such as body language. Listening is a both complex process and a learned skill; it requires a conscious intellectual and emotional effort."3077872464_59648e7080

Here are a few things Keith suggests in order to become a more effective listener;

  1. Encourage silence to show you are actively listening. Many salespeople only wait a split second to respond to a client's comments or questions. Instead, get in the habit of waiting a minimum of three to four seconds before responding. Even count to yourself to ensure that enough time has elapsed. This conscious pause will make the person feel heard and comfortable enough to talk more, since your pause demonstrates that you have a sincere interest in what they are saying. Although many salespeople find the conscious effort to stay quiet challenging, silence creates the space that will motivate your client to share additional information. It also gives you enough time to respond thoughtfully and intelligently to your client's specific needs. Besides, look at the words: SILENT and LISTEN. Notice that each word shares the exact same letters.
  2. Never interrupt while the client is speaking. Obviously, what we were taught as children still applies. Enough said.
  3. Be present. Listen with an open mind (without filters or judgment). Focus on what the client is saying (or trying to say) instead of being concerned with closing a sale. This shows that you have a genuine interest in helping them, not just yourself. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing subtle nuances or inferences that could make or stall the sale.
  4. Make the client feel heard. This goes beyond simply becoming a better listener. It involves ensuring that the person to whom you are listening actually feels heard. To make someone feel heard, clarify what the client has said during the conversation. Rephrase their comments or questions in your own words in order to ensure that you not only heard but understood them. 
  5. Resist the temptation to rebut. As human beings we have a natural tendency to resist any new information that conflicts with what we believe. Often enough, when we hear someone saying something with which we might disagree, we immediately begin formulating a rebuttal in our mind to obscure the message that we are receiving. And if we are focused on creating a rebuttal, we are not listening. Remember that you can always rebut later, after you have heard the whole message and had time to think about it.

An old friend of mine told me one time that you can't learn anything if you're always the one talking. Becoming a better and more active listener will not only improve you personal and professional relationships, it will soon lead to more sales.


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