Improve your Business Success with Active Listening

Are you a good listener, or do you usually wait for a pause in the conversation to say something? If asked, how would your friends, business colleagues, and rate your listening ability? If the reviews aren’t glowing, perhaps you need to practice active listening.
“To listen closely and reply well is one of the highest perfections we are able to attain in the art of selling,” wrote John Boe in an article for the International Institute of Directors and Managers. He cited this ancient Chinese proverb: “To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well.”
Active listening has several benefits, according to the Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado. First, it forces people to listen attentively to others. Second, it avoids misunderstandings, as people have to confirm that they do really understand what another person has said. Third, it tends to open people up, to get them to say more.
To actively listen, Boe says the listener must make “a conscious effort to hear your customer’s words as well as to try and understand the total message being sent, both verbally and nonverbally.” Listen not only with the ears, but use your eyes to see the customer’s body language gestures.
To improve your sales effectiveness, Boe suggests consider incorporating the following active listening tips into your interactions.
  1. Face your customer and give him, her or them your complete and undivided attention.
  2. Show you’re paying attention through your own body language. Sit up straight, maintain good eye contact, uncross your legs, unfold your arms, and lean forward slightly.
  3. Turn off your cell phone.
  4. Respond appropriately to show that you understand by nodding your head in agreement.
  5. Encourage your customer to give you more information by using open-ended questions such as “How did you feel when that happened?”
  6. Keep an open mind and don’t jump to any conclusion or make assumptions. Wait until your customer has finished speaking before deciding that you disagree.
  7. Don’t interrupt your customer when they are speaking.
  8. Ask questions for clarification and periodically summarise comments. Paraphrase your customer’s key statements to make sure you didn’t misunderstand their point of view. Start with: “So if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying…”

When people are in conflict, they often contradict each other, denying the opponents description of a situation, according to the Colorado consortium. This can make people defensive and shut down or get angry. However, if they feel that they are negotiating with someone who really understands their concerns, they are more likely to explain in detail what they feel and why. If both parties to a negotiation do this, the chances of being able to reach an agreement becomes much greater.

To find out more about being a good listener, visit the International Listening Association.