Have you ever been accused of not being a good listener? If your answer is “no”, it is probably because you were not listening to the person (typically a family member) who enthusiastically shared this little gem of wisdom with you.
As it turns out, the act of listening is pretty challenging for good reason. Our brains process information about six times faster than we speak. The average person talks at a rate of 150 words per minute, yet we process information at a rate of 900-1000 words per minute. This means that we are way ahead of the speaker, analyzing what he is saying before he has even finished saying it. Sometimes we use this gap in time to plan our brilliant response (which probably will not be fully listened to).
I have heard it said that in most conversations there are two participants: the speaker and... the person waiting to speak. This is particularly true in sales, as most of us are anxious and excited to share our solutions with our clients. When we hear a need or opportunity our tendency is to jump on it as quickly as we can– waiting for the client to pause so we can take the floor by inserting our idea or solution.
What to do about it? Here are five techniques to help you improve your listening skills with clients.
1. Be prepared. Taking the time to prepare is probably the most effective thing we can do to enable our listening. If you are prepared, you don’t have to be distracted by figuring out what you are going to say next as it will be available to you when you need it. Preparation frees you up to be in the moment with the client.
2. Don’t assume. Consciously listen for nuances in how this client’s problem may differ from a previous client’s problem. A common barrier to listening is when we assume we know the client’s situation based on similar situations with similar clients and we miss important differences.
3. Make a note. When something that the client says triggers you to respond – make a quick note so you remember what you want to say – and then, get back as soon as possible to your listening role.
4. Truly listen with the intent to learn. Conscious intention goes a long way here. Remind yourself that no matter how similar clients’ situations are, people are different and have different perspectives and views. Instead of listening to sell, think of this as an opportunity to learn – (which, of course, will better enable you to sell.)
5. “Double-click” on key words that mean different things to different people. A word like “partner” is quite broad. Find out what this client means when he uses the term “partner” by clicking a proverbial mouse over the word by saying something like “partnership means different things to different people, will you please elaborate a little on what partnership looks like for you?”
Have you been listening? We are committed to providing you with useful tips and reminders to help you be as effective as possible. Please share your feedback!