You know the importance of listening by now; whether you need to provide a product or service, or you need to manage a project, task or team, listening is an essential skill we need to keep on practicing. But how well do you really listen? Have you ever noticed how bad we sometimes are at actually listening to each other?
We might have a bad day, our minds keep on wondering sometimes, or we just really had a bad night of sleep. Other times, instead of listening we are way more focused on taking the opportunity to (re)tell that one story we think will really make us look interesting. Sounds familiar? Then you’re already one step ahead. Whether it is circumstantial or linked to our personality and/or agendas, failing to listen might cost us dearly.
But what makes listening so difficult? If we know how important it is, why do we do so it poorly? This is mainly because we often listen ‘autobiographically’: everything we think we hear, we color in with what we have experienced ourselves. We interpret, judge, test and advise, but do we also hear what the other person actually says?
Listening is different from waiting for your turn to talk again. It requires conscious effort to identify whatever bad listening habits you have, and engage in pro-active listening. It is precisely in commercial conversation that it is important that your interlocutor feels heard. By training your listening skills, you not only become a better salesman, but lay steady ground for sustainable relationships.
Here’s a few tips to practice your listening skills.
1/ Show that you are listening
With simple listening signals such as ‘hm hm’, ‘I get what you are saying’, ‘yes’ and ‘indeed’ you let the other person notice that you are all one and all ears.
2/ Do not judge
Even before the other person has finished talking, you have usually determined whether you agree with him or not. Ask for their opinion for a moment. This way you keep the conversation open and your discussion partner notices that you are really interested.
3/ Repeat what the other person says
This way you suppress the tendency to judge and you give the other person the feeling of being understood.
4/ Let go of your assumptions
You are constantly interpreting during a conversation. You try to fit everything the other person says into one of the boxes in your head. In short, you make assumptions. If you become aware of your assumptions, you can let them go and better understand what the other person says.
Identify the feeling of the other person or ask them: ‘So if I understand correctly, you want…’, ‘do you find it annoying that …?’ then make notes and write down keywords. This provides guidance during the conversation and helps you to remember things better. Summarize regularly what the other person has said. Do this in your own words: ‘So if I understand correctly, you think your account managers could organize their time better?’ This way you can immediately check your own assumptions and point the conversation in the right direction.
6/ Ask questions
Stupid questions do not exist. Ask as many questions until you understand what the other person means. It’s better to ask than to assume. You’ll be rewarded for your attention!
7/ 70 – 30
As a rule of thumb: in a good commercial conversation, the other person is speaking 70% of the time. So not the other way around.
Interested in a personalized training on communication skills? We’ll be happy to discuss and create a training that answers your needs. Contact us!