We know the importance to our health of building our muscles and working on them every day. Well, building our listening muscle is equally important to our business. Yet this is a muscle that often goes untended.
We are often so focused on the next step, the next sentence, the next opportunity that we forget to be present and pay attention. In addition, there are so many more influences and stimuli these days that we can feel like we have adult A.D.D. Between our electronic devices, social media, email, and texting, we are bombarded with information and activity. It can be very hard to focus in this environment.
There are a couple of problems with an inability to listen effectively. The first is that we don’t discover the information we need to make relevant decisions or present accurate proposals. This is a huge issue in sales. The sales person is so focused on sharing information about their product or service that they don’t take the time to ask questions and listen to the answers. Because of this, they don’t build a rapport with the prospect or help the prospect feel valued.
People buy from people they like and trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you – no matter how fabulous your product or service is.
In addition, they don’t find out enough about the prospect to determine if it’s a good fit for them. Not all prospects are qualified. The only way to find out if the one you’re talking to is a good fit for you and your company is to ask questions and listen to the answers.
This can also be a problem when vetting vendors or referral partners. If you don’t take the time and attention to really get to know them, you could enter into a relationship that is not the best for your company. Bad business relationships can destroy a company. You end up spending money, time and energy unnecessarily – all things that should be spent on good relationships.
John Jantsch talks about different types of listening, the best being “active” and “perceptive.” According to John:
“Perceptive listening is by far the most complex because it requires you to be totally focused, completely mindful and, well, perceptive of what’s really going on.”
I have to say that I think this is probably the hardest kind of listening to learn. It really takes complete attention and tuning out of everything else. Because of that, it is the most effective kind of listening. The other party can feel this kind of listening. When someone feels this kind of listening they also feel valued. They believe the other person is genuinely interested in learning about them and their needs.
They believe you really want to help them solve a problem; they start to trust you.
That genuine interest is the key to a successful business in my opinion. It not only works with prospects, but clients and vendors. Anyone you have a relationship with will notice this level of commitment and attention. They will be more inclined to participate in the relationship and you will come to better decisions and solutions when you are listening closely.
You’ll truly hear what someone is saying and will be able to absorb it. Now you are open to ideas and collaboration. Perfect!
Because ‘perceptive’ listening is more complex, you most likely won’t master it on your first attempt. This is why active listening is so important. Active listening is simply listening to what is being said. When you are actively listening you aren’t thinking about what you are going to say next. You aren’t reading your email on your smartphone while the other person is talking. You are present, attentive, and engaged. You may not be thinking about what the other person’s motivation is. You may not be paying close attention to their body language, but you are paying attention to their words. You are taking notes and responding to what they are saying.
This behavior is a great first step. Active listening can build trust and value with your prospect or employee.
There are so few people actively listening (unfortunately) that this behavior stands out. You can learn a lot at this point. You can respond to their answers and provide them with a solution to their issues. You can empower an employee; you can come to a compromise with a vendor. You can be tremendously effective.
So, how well developed is your listening muscle? Are you actively listening? Have you mastered perceptive listening? If not, start working on exercising that muscle today. Practice tuning out other influences. Engage someone in a conversation and monitor your listening ability. Create a system to help yourself focus during conversations with prospects, clients, employees, and vendors. Your business will be healthier when your listening muscle is strong.
Listen Photo via Shutterstock