When you read articles or hear discussions on communication skills, the focus is on the content (the words). Be concise, maintain interest, avoid cliché’s, etc. In my view the most important element to good communication is often left out: good listening skills.
I got a call today from a gentlemen who represented a consulting firm. He of course is trying to sell his firm’s services. Generally I am not very fond of cold calls, but I had a few minutes and I gave him a shot. WHAT A MISTAKE! This guy’s listening skills were non-existent. He asked me a question about our future plans, and I started discussing (very briefly) our plans for the remainder of the year and to start 2014. He interrupted me mid-sentence and started talking about his firm. I did not get to finish my thought, and It was rude that he did not allow me to finish my answer.
I am sure most intelligent business people out there would state that they believe proper listening skills are important. But do you actually practice good listening skills? Here are a few things you can do to make sure you are doing a good job of listening:
- Keep in mind – you are trying to gain information about the prospect. You gain information by asking questions and getting answers, not by making statements. Avoid chest-thumping!
- Ask open-ended questions. This will engage the prospect, and hopefully they will reveal some information that you can use to take the conversation deeper.
- Employ follow-up questions based on the answers you obtain. It is often when you get the most valuable information, and it signals to the other party that you are actively engaged in the conversation. They will know their answers are important and registering with you.