Become A Better Listener

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In today's noisy world listening is not always easy. Still it is an important skill to have so we'll give you tips on how to become a better listener.

There’s a certain love we have for the sound of our own voice. We have an achy need to be heard and to inject our perspectives to every situation. Sure it’s our right to do so, but at a business level, there is far more value in being great at listening.

It took me some time to appreciate, but the quiet one in the room is often the most knowledgeable. They listen attentively, ask precise questions when needed, and formulate carefully constructed thoughts.

So how do you become a better listener?

Frame the Conversation

People vent endlessly if given the opportunity, so focus the conversation to make the most of your time. Set an agenda, keep things on topic as best as possible and show up with talking points or questions.

  • “I’ll send out an agenda of things we should go through.”
  • “Let’s get through these points, and then we’ll just open the floor.”

When I first started in sales, I used to have a little cheat sheet of questions I would always ask. Things related to budget, product experience or urgent needs that were always important. This ensured I never left without getting the key details I needed.

Remove Yourself from the Equation

We get our product and we think we get our customer. It blinds us from absorbing opinions and getting true insights. If you show up thinking you’re the expert on your customer, you’re going to overlook something.

  • “Why do you think that way?”
  • “Have you had experience with a product like this before?”

The customer is not an idiot; they think a certain way for a reason. When you show up with a neutral opinion, you remove bias and you’re more receptive to new points of view.

Think of Yourself as an Educator

Everyone has had different experiences, and that affects how we perceive things. Take time to learn why people think a certain way, and if there is a misconception, your discussion may be more about education.

When I was dealing with web products like SEO, most people had a very poor understanding of how the process works. By listening to their past experiences, it was clear where their ideas came from. The role changed from being in sales to a patient educator, and people trusted me because of that.

Don’t be Afraid of Silence

One time at a conversation, try your best to leave an awkward pause or two. Really. Just let them finish a point, and sit there quietly like you’re waiting for them to continue. Our nature almost forces us to say something to break the awkwardness.

It’s like playing conversational chicken with a customer, and quite often it leads to very interesting breakthroughs. They fill the space with what’s really on their mind, and it brings out very important elements of their nature.

The hardest thing for me to do early in my sales career was to resist the temptation to jump in and add something. I couldn’t wait to address a concern, answer a question or talk about how I was the best, but this is flawed. The more I listened, the more I learned how to serve a customer.



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