I Hear You – But I Am Not Listening to You

It has been said that you will make more sales if you spend more time listening (to your customer) than talking (to the customer.)  But there is listening – and then there is “active listening.”  Active listening is not just accurately hearing all of the words that you customer speaks.  No… it is much more.  It is doing whatever it takes to fully understand what the customer is “intending” to communicate.

I was reading “The Truth About Managing People,” by Stephen P. Robbins the other day.  In Truth #36 he neatly details eight behaviors that will lead to effective active listening:

1) Make eye contact.

2) Exhibit affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions.

3) Avoid distracting actions or gestures.

4) Ask questions.

5) Paraphrase.

6) Avoid interrupting the speaker.

7) Don't over-talk.

8) Make smooth transitions between the roles of speaker and listener.

This is rock-solid advice for anyone who wants to gather more sales or generally improve business relationships – with customers or with you peers and staff.  Here are a few of my own comments and observations:

Even when you are talking on the phone, it is possible to establish “eye contact” with the other party.  You establish eye contact by being “present and engaged” in the conversation – you are truly interested in what is being said.  You are listening for the nuances in the other person's voice – their words, their tone of voice, their pauses.

I don't care how busy you are.  If you have an “open door” policy then it is imperative that you stay fully engaged when an employee or a customer approaches you with a question or a comment – AMEN!  Put away your Blackberry, stop shuffling papers on your desk, don't glance over when your computer “pings” that a new message has arrived.  If you can't fully engage in the conversation either close your door (and do your emailing or shuffling papers)  or ask your employee if you can schedule a time to listen to them – because it really matters – to both of you.

And don't think that people can't “see” you multi-taking over the phone.  They can – and they do – and they don't like it!  So don't do it.  If you can't afford the time to actively listen to your customer … well…. what can you afford?

You ask questions to seek clarification, ensure that you understand correctly and also to assure your customer that you are truly listening.  If you just follow these three guidelines your sales and your relationships will improve immediately.

Be careful not to “parody” when you “paraphrase.”  Don't simply “parrot” back the actual words your customer speaks.  Ask for confirmation that you have heard them correctly; and do this with sincerity.

Never, ever interrupt the speaker.  Do not attempt to complete their sentences for them.  Learn to wait for your speaker to end his or her thought before you offer your comments or ask another question.  When you do this your customers and your staff will gain a new respect for your professional conduct.  You will stand out from the crowd when you learn not to “crowd the conversation.”

Finally, try not to be thinking about your response or your next question while your customer is still talking.  Always be engaged (actively listening) when someone is talking to you.  Then pause.  And then talk.  Trust me.  When you follow this advice, your questions and comments will flow naturally.  And they will be much more effective that the questions or comments you were planning to ask (while your customer was still speaking.)

Do you have any special techniques that you use to improve your listening skills?  If so, please share them with our readers.  Or just drop me an email danny@thecompanyrocks.com

Thank you for listening!

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