The Therapist is In (Listening Skills)

WHAT? In our work as a consulting firm, whenever we discuss listening skills, the majority of salespeople admit that they know that they are not very good at listening. When the topic comes up, they want to know a scientific process for increasing listening skills (and we provide this for you below). 

SO WHAT? Ask any sales manager, and you will hear that he or she is surprised by how many times salespeople miss a buying sign or "pain statement" by a buyer. Poor listening is almost an epidemic. When we miss buying signals, we increase our workload, extend the sales cycle, and allow the competition to find a way into the sales cycle. 

NOW WHAT? Follow these steps for increasing your listening skills: 

1. Focus your attention on the person with whom you are speaking and forget about everything else. Especially forget about your "to do" list. This is the step that most people never completely master. And, if you miss this step, the rest of these steps don't matter. I personally envision a chalkboard with my "to do" list and I wipe away the list with an eraser so that this person has all my attention. 

2. "Feel" the person's answer (you are being passively empathetic). Does his or her body language put an extra emphasis on something or someone? 

3. Engage physically in the conversation by, at the appropriate times, nodding your head, moving your hands (in acknowledgment or surprise), raising your eyebrows, and/or adjusting yourself in your chair. This trains your body to stay focused and it physically shows that you are listening. 

4. At certain key times, repeat what the person says. This helps for the following reasons: 

  • It makes the speaker feel good (because he or she knows that you are listening).
  • You will remember it because your brain heard it out loud. 
  • It allows you to stall for time while you collect yourself and your answer to a question. 
  • It helps you clarify the information before you respond. 
  • And, sometimes the buyer starts selling himself or herself on your solution before you have delivered any demonstration of value (because you are there when the buyer starts articulating pain, he or she automatically starts inserting your solution into the dialogue). 

5. Respond to the person's dialogue only after following the first four steps noted above. 

Tip: Don't just use this for business. To get better at listening skills, you must practice using these skills 24/7. 

Ultimately, you are following a highly effective listening skill process that is used by many therapists. So, think of yourself as a business therapist as you engage in these listening techniques. 

Copyright © 2012 by Todd Zaugg, “Warrior Sales Monk, Heart of a Warrior, Soul of a Monk, Mind of a Professional”

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