The Forgotten Art of Listening

We are so busy making sure that people hear what we have to say that we forget to listen. l learned very quickly that the key to success in selling – as it is in negotiating – is keeping your mouth shut and listening to what people have to say. I discovered that my sales prospects would tell me everything l needed to know in order to make the sale – if l just kept my mouth shut long enough. If l tried to make a flowery presentation, l would be thrown out.

It turns out that listening is not a difficult art to master. In fact, it’s quite simple. It’s similar to what l go through in order to keep physically fit. The easy part of staying in shape is doing all the exercises. The hard part is getting to the gym on a regular basis. The excuses l come up with for not going are amazing. Learning to listen is the same. The hard part – the equivalent of „getting to the gym“ – is shutting up. lf you can train yourself to keep your mouth shut most of the time, you will be a great listener and a great negotiator.

Listening Tips

Here are some suggestions for developing your listening skills:

  • Develop the desire to listen. You must accept the fact that listening to others is your strongest weapon. Given the opportunity, the other person will tell you everything you need to know. If this doesn’t create desire, l don’t know what will.
  • Always let the other person do most of the talking. This is a simple matter of mathematics. l suggest a 70/30 rule. You listen 70% of the time and you talk 30% of the time.
  • Don’t interrupt. There is always the temptation to interrupt so you can tell the other person something you think is vitally important. It isn’t, so don’t. When you are about to speak, ask yourself if it is really necessary.
  • Learn active listening. It’s not enough that you’re listening to someone – you want to be sure that they know you’re listening. Active listening is the art of communicating to the other person that you’re hearing their every word.
  • Ask for clarification if needed. This will clear up any misunderstanding you have.
  • Get used to listening for nonverbal messages – body language. The other person may be communicating with you via body language. You need to decode the message.
  • Ask a question… then shut up. This is a foolproof way to listen. Think of yourself as an Interviewer, he listens and questions. So should you.

Tips For Asking Questions

Once you have learned how to keep yourself from speaking, the art of asking questions is the shortcut to effective listening. Here are some tips for asking questions:

  • Ask open-ended questions. „How could we do this?“ „What do you think?“ Your objective is to get them to talk as much as possible.
  • Don’t ask questions that put them on the defensive. For example, „Why?“ is intimidating. Don’t ask „why?“ Ask „how come?“
  • Ask instead: „What if?“ What if we did it this way?
  • Ask for their advice. „What would you suggest we do to resolve this?“ Everyone loves to be asked for advice.
  • Offer alternatives. „Which way would you prefer?“ This demonstrates your respect for the other person.
  • Ask about their feelings. „How do you feel about this?“ Most people love to have their feelings validated.
  • Repeat back what they said. „Let me be sure l understand what you’re saying. You’re saying that…?“ This technique will prevent misunderstandings and convince them that you really are listening.

Being a Detective

Well, there it is. Now all you need to do is practice. If you want to watch a role model for all of this, turn on a Inspector Columbo episode. He’s my role-model. l advise all my participants to think of themselves as detectives.