8 Methods to Becoming a Better Listener

5 Mar


Only 7% of what the prospect says is what they mean??? In 1971, Albert Mehrabian published Silent Messages based on his research of non-verbal communication. He concluded that prospects based their assessments of credibility on factors other than the words that the salesperson spoke. He assigned 55% of the weighting to the speaker’s body language and another 38% to the tone and pitch of their voice. They assigned only 7 percent of their credibility assessment to the salesperson’s actual words. 

So – are you really listening? If you haven’t learned how to be an effective listener, you aren’t a good salesperson. If you don’t pay attention to the non-verbals, you are a lousy salesperson!

In 2014, salespeople need to ask questions before they start shoving their product or service down their prospect’s throat. You have two ears and one mouth, so you shouldn’t be talking more than 1/3 of the time (and even less if there are more than two people in the meeting). If you are selling something intangible, asking the right questions along with the listening component are even more important. If you are asking the right questions, the next step is to pick up a pen or tablet, write down everything they say AND observe their body language and pitch/tone. After they have told you about all their business challenges, ask them what the ramifications are surrounding their top 2-3 issues. Instead of worrying about what you say on that first meeting, focus on being an active listener.

8 Tips for Better Listening:

  1. Listen to the intent and the emotional meaning of the speaker. Use your intuition to really “hear” the underlying message.
  2. Constantly assess the speaker’s non-verbal communication. Learn to interpret their body language and other non-verbals.
  3. Always listen with empathy instead of judgment. Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and understand what shapes his/her feelings. Do not respond only to what the speaker implies; rather, respond to the total communication.
  4. An active listener is always taking notes in a business meeting. If you are prone to daydream, this may be all you need to stay focused.
  5. Do not prepare your response while someone is still talking. Instead, give them eye contact, nods and small affirmations like “got it” and “yes” (refrain from screaming “AMEN BROTHER!”).
  6. Understand what your options are ahead of time regarding certain words or ideas that may be expressed. As a salesperson, you should have prepared documents and information to show and rehearsed “sound bites” relevant to your solution.
  7. If you realize that you are not listening, try to move closer to the speaker.
  8. Physically turning an ear toward the speaker will often encourage them to talk a little louder. If you missed something, politely ask them to repeat what they said (but don’t try this three times when you are in front of a prospect!).

Beyond understanding the non-verbals, I’ve had to learn to overcome my own listening obstacles. My failing has always been #5 – I am so busy thinking while they have the floor that I often fall into the trap of only half listening to what someone is saying to me. If I arrive at a meeting having done a little research with my information on hand, I rarely have to over-think my responses. I’ve also learned that it’s okay to pause before giving my response – which actually makes you appear more thoughtful.

If you want to dig up more on the non-verbals, check out a good article by Carol Kinsey Goman of Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2013/04/01/body-language-savvy-for-sales/

Poor and average listeners can improve, but you need to work at it. If your spouse at home constantly hammers you for not listening, take a close look at how well you listen in the workplace (because people won’t usually tell you there!). Pay attention to the non-verbals!

NEXT WEEK – I’m going to write a blog on how to get your prospects to listen better to you. Hope you’ll return!

Make every day count~

Drew Schmitz




Facebook: http://on.fb.me/131nqty

Twitter: @drew_schmitz

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