A lot of folks have asked me how I’m able to get people to open up and talk to me about seemingly mundane things. It’s a very simple three-step process:
Close mouth. Open ears. Repeat.
Listening is the most important relationship skill you can practice. When you listen to someone actively, they can feel it. To build trust you must listen well. You must pay close attention. Take notes, it shows the person you really value what they’re saying.
Be patient. Being an active listener helps you learn about your customers so you’ll be in a stronger position to serve them, by determining their needs and wants and by asking smart follow-up questions. Without good listening habits, you will miss valuable consumer insights, opportunities to serve your customers and improve your products or services.
See things from your customer’s or prospect’s perspective. The better you listen, the more you learn and the more perspective your gain.
Becoming an active and focused listener is a function of managing external and internal distractions. External distractions are noise, the phone ringing, a person walking by and interruptions. Internal distractions include preparing a response while the person is still speaking, shutting down because you disagree with what the person is saying, being preoccupied with judging the speaker based on style, accent or clothing. Let the person who is speaking know they’re the only thing on your mind.
Our brain works five to six times faster than people talk. Even if you are paying close attention to what the speaker is saying, you still have a lot of free time in your head. How you manage the free time will determine the quality of your listening and ultimately the quality of the relationships you establish with your customers.
If you’re not sure what the person just said, ask them to repeat it or repeat it back to them to confirm you got it and to let them know that what they have to say is valuable to you. The more you show the speaker that what they say has value to you, the more they’re willing to share.
Active listeners: 1) concentrate on what people are saying; 2) control their impulse to finish people’s sentences – they are patient listeners; 3) make an effort to see the speaker’s point of view – they listen with empathy; and, 4) give feedback to the speaker – verbal and non-verbal.
Active listeners get richer consumer insights. Listen up!