Do you ever finish a phone call or leave your client’s premises and think that they just weren’t listening to you? If you’re a manager or leader, do you ever think that you are talking to yourself? As a parent, do you sometimes wish that your children would just hear what you were saying?
As a speaker, coach and human being I hear these kind of comments and frustrations regularly. People feel that when they talk, the other party just isn’t listening. And this translates into unwanted situations whether lost sales, unsatisfactory team performance, or unruly teenagers.
If only you could be more persuasive, more influential or more impactful. If only, then people would listen to you…
Or would they?
People also complain that their clients don’t open up to them. They complain that their clients don’t tell them what’s going on. If only they would, then they could present the right solutions and really help them in their businesses.
People complain that their staff don’t talk to them. They don’t share with them. They don’t tell them what’s working and what’s not working. They don’t share their frustrations. If only they would, we could create more fulfilling and more satisfying employment for them.
People complain that their teenagers stop talking to them. They stop confiding in them. They don’t tell them what’s going on in their lives. If only they would, we could share our worldy-wise expertise with them, save the from making painful mistakes and guide them to being more successful.
Here’s the thing. People listen to people who they trust. People listen to people who they value. People listen to people who they feel that they can confide in.
- People don’t listen to people that they feel are going to lecture them.
- People don’t listen to people who are going to twist what they say.
- People don’t listen to people who are going to sell them.
- People don’t listen to people who are going to judge them.
- People don’t listen to people who are going to argue with them.
- People don’t listen to people who just want to express their own point of view.
You get the point.
People listen to people who listen to them.
And, here is the truth, no matter how much you don’t like it…
Most salespeople don’t really listen. Most leaders don’t really listen. Most parents don’t really listen. Most people don’t really listen.
And, by really listen, I mean listening to understand. Listening to understand someone else’s point of view. Listening to understand why they are saying what they are saying. Listening so that you can walk a mile in their shoes. Listening so that they feel they have been listened to, they feel that they have been heard, they feel that they have been appreciated, they feel that they have been valued.
If you want people to listen to you then you need to listen to them… first.
Over the years many people have taught listening skills. Thousands of training sessions have been run for many, many, many thousands of people and, in my opinion, most have been a waste of time…
Listening is not about skills or techniques or calculated movements or gestures. Listening is not about what you do. Listening is about what you intend, what you feel, who you are. So here are my four simple tips for becoming a great listener…
1) Be genuinely interested.
The key to listening is deep inside you. You cannot pretend to listen. You cannot fake listening. You either are or you aren’t and the key to switching on conversation changing listening is to be genuinely interested.
And it’s at this point that many salespeople say to me that they are and I say, “Are you really? All of the time? Even on bad days? Even when you think that the sale is not on? Even when you’re not on top form?”
Didn’t think so. You need to be. People know… if not consciously, definitely unconsciously. Relationship formed or destroyed right there.
2) Listen to understand.
There is a difference between how most people listen and how those who listen to understand listen.
The first group are sifting, sorting and searching for phrases, meanings, and words that allow them to interject with their point, their story or their sales information. The second are listening to really understand the other party. They want to know who their client is, how they got where they are, what life is like for them, what keeps them awake at night…
Ironically, the best salesperson would probably be the one with nothing to sell. They would have no agenda, no pre-assembled, flat-packed pitch, no fancy presentation. And they would listen.
3) Listen with your whole person.
Great listeners listen with eyes as well as ears. They listen with their body. They mirror, they match, they move. They don’t copy, they don’t run techniques they learnt… they let their whole body and person do what it does naturally when they genuinely care, when they genuinely want to understand.
4) Show your interest.
Share stories. Show your vulnerability. Show interest. Ask questions. Follow the natural flow of the conversation. Rivers don’t run in straight lines and neither do real conversations. Don’t go leaping down your sales process just because it’s there or because you can. Let the conversation develop, let the relationship develop, let the magic happen. Do this and you will get the opportunity.
Some of you will have read this and got the point. Some of you won’t. Many of you will think that you already do this. You probably don’t. Listening, true listening, is probably the weakest communication tool that most people have and it is certainly the least used. It is also probably your greatest opportunity.