(By Bob McCurdy) We have all been cooped-up for the past several months with “freedom” of movement finally becoming a reality as counties and states begin to lift restrictions. Gradually being able to interact with co-workers and some clients albeit sporadically will be likely ridiculously exhilarating.
With all of the suppressed adrenaline combined with the desire to close some business, there is a chance we might want to talk when we should be listening. So before each sales or phone call, it might not be a bad idea to remind yourself about the importance of active listening and not simply waiting for your turn to speak.
Listening under normal circumstances is critical in sales but over the next few months it might be more important than ever as our clients are likely going to want to communicate their stories and challenges they have faced and continue to face. Letting them do so might serve us quite well.
We not only “learn” when we listen, we also “earn” when we listen, as we are provided clues as to how more effectively present our assets and ideas, but another benefit is that we also convey respect and gain trust.
There is a whole lot of catching up to do and it is best if we let our clients control the conversation. A few thoughts:
-Avoid being so focused on what you are going to say that you miss what is being said. When concentrating on what you are going to say, you are paying attention to yourself and not the person speaking.
-Listen with empathy. By intently focusing on the speaker, it is easier to see things from their point of view. Seek to understand.
-Slow it down. Take a breath before responding. Even though it might not be the case, it does comes across as more thoughtful.
-Write down any questions you might have prior to the meeting or call. This frees you up to listen.
-Get in the habit of repeating back at least some of what you have heard before launching into a response.
We are all have been guilty of not listening to understand, but waiting for our turn to reply. “Listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent” and when we are silent, we obtain greater insights. It is a good idea in light of the disruption many of our clients have experienced and the uncertainty on their immediate horizon that we remain slightly more silent and circumspect than usual when interacting with them.
Active listening is not easy. It is a skill requiring attention over knowledge, selflessness over self, empathy over indifference and an outward focus over egocentrism.
Over the next few months, it is best to be less concerned about being “heard”. As the Dalai Lama said, “When you talk you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new,” and there is a lot of “new” stuff to learn about your clients.
Bob McCurdy is now retired and can be reached at [email protected]