Everyone has the friend that is known for interrupting. You know, the one that interrupts you mid-sentence while you’re telling a good story to tell you ALL about them. By doing this, they think that they’re “relating to you”, while in actuality, what they’re really doing is hijacking your punch line and demonstrating that they’re horrible listeners.
As annoying as that type of listener is, a close cousin to the interrupter is the listener that is listening with an agenda. When you listen with an agenda, you listen waiting for the person talking to walk you into your Segway to your product pitch or what you want to talk about instead of validating what they are talking about. This is a very common attribute displayed by many people in sales. All too often, prospective customers feel comfortable enough to start down the path of their real problems, and as soon as the sales person hears the “in” they JUMP right into the middle of the story and hijack the conversation over to the land of products and solutions. When most of the time, the prospect is wanting to be heard, understood and empathized with, solutions and products might fit down the road, but to start, they are simply wanting to be heard.
I truly believe that salespeople are not filled with malicious intent when this type of scenario plays out. A lot of what guides this type of behavior is product excitement and a true desire to solve problems for people. But just like the way you handle a first date vs a marriage of ten years, you ease into it and you “court” her BEFORE you ask for her hand in marriage, and get to know the person before you hop into products pitches.
The Foundation of any relationship is communication, while listening is truly the juice that provides the flow between two people. I would argue that the best sales people/business development professionals are the ones that know how to listen and then ask great questions keeping the conversation about the prospect.
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Everyone has problems; have you ever had a hard day increasing sales while providing a safe place for people to talk about their problems? Most people haven’t, because if you help create solutions to their problems by listening, you will have a customer for life.
A very practical and simple way to focus on listening is to make the conversation about the prospect. This sounds simple, but how do you do that? Here are a few tips to hone your listening skills:
Make Eye Contact
By focusing your attention on the prospect, it allows for a calmer mind and increases your listening ability, if you find you drift off, bring yourself back by way of eye contact.
Practice selfless listening
When you find yourself wandering, think positively about the person in front of you and practice empathy, instead of letting your mind wander to how your products will fix their problems, bring your attention the the literal words they are saying and what the meaning is behind their words.
Create your own meditation habit.
Part of being a good listener is having a quiet mind and in my experience the best way to learn to quiet your mind is with a regular meditation practice. Headspace is a great app that guides you through a wonderful ten minute per day meditation. Fantastic for beginners or anyone really.
When you are focusing on evolving your leadership as a business development professional, focusing on listening will help your ability to solve problems.
Lindsey Rainwater, also known as Lindsey RainH2O, is a sought-after business consultant, leadership coach, writer and presenter to the fitness and wellness industry. For more information about Rainwater, follow her on Twitter@LindseyRainH2O