How to Display Excellent Listening Skills

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Man with hand on ear listeningOf all the skills we learn while growing up, listening is rarely top of the list. And it IS a skill, because it can be learned and developed by almost anybody.

The best way to display excellence in this key area of communication is by listening on two separate levels.

Firstly, listen for content. You mainly use your left brain for this task, as it’s normally information-rich and process-driven. Your client will outline goals, targets, objectives, pains, opportunities and other things that will assist you in developing understanding of their business.

One way to develop your skill at listening for content is to imagine you will have to explain what the prospect is saying to someone else. And in a third of the time they took to tell you! This means you will have to filter out all the chaff so you’re just left with the wheat.

Another way is to paraphrase or summarise what the prospect has said every few sentences. Rephrase it so it shows a complete understanding of their point. Something like: “So let me make sure I understand you correctly. You know your department would benefit, but you don’t know if you want to pay the fees up front. Is that right?”

To develop this skill, listen for the actual words said, rather than the way they are said. Remember that everyone sees the world from their own vantage point, and by listening intently, you see things from their perspective, not your own.

Secondly, listen for intent. You’ve heard that over a third of your communication is relayed by tone of voice, meaning that not everything the prospect says has equal importance.

Consider this sentence. It has at least four different meanings. See if you can decipher what the client’s intent is in saying it:

“I don’t think, at this moment, we would be interested in investing all that money in this project”

Depending where the emphasis is put, the meaning (and hence the intention behind the statement) could change.

If they emphasised “at this moment”, it may mean they might consider it at another time.

If they emphasised “we”, there may be other departments who would be interested.

If they emphasised “all that money”, they may be interested in budgeting a different amount.

And if they emphasised “in this project”, they might be interested in something else you could offer.

Make sure you identify what the tone of voice is telling you. It may well uncover the intent in the statement.

So, if you listen carefully for the content and intent of what the prospect is saying, it will give you a clearer picture of the real meaning, and help you improve your listening skills on every occasion.

Happy selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 26 May, 2010

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