Are you having trouble communicating with your clients? Feel like you’re not getting your point across? Maybe the problem isn’t what you’re saying, but what you’re hearing. Are you listening?
Good listening techniques make it easier for you to understand what a client (or potential client) is looking/asking for. If you practice great listening, you’ll be able to focus on specific key points that really target your client. Hear what they’re saying and you’ll know what to say.
Poor listeners have trouble focusing – they think ahead, multitask, get distracted, or interrupt the speaker. Since our brains can process over 600 words per minute, but our mouths can only speak 125-200 words per minute, we get bored when a speaker rambles. Though a speaker may seem boring, being bored is not an excuse for poor listening. You need to focus on the client, on the person telling you what their needs are.
Great listeners maintain curiosity during the conversation. They make eye contact. They affirm verbally (“Yes, I see” or “That’s a good point”) and nonverbally (nodding or leaning in). They wait for their turn to speak and, when that time comes, ask questions that focus on the other person. They are interested in the client, not in themselves.
Respond to your client in ways that show off your good listening skills. Ask for more details on a subject they’ve covered, or inquire how they feel about a certain situation. Pay attention to how they process information (are they more visual? or do they “learn by doing”?) and respond accordingly. Note the speed and energy of their voice, and match your response to their levels.
If you’re already a great listener, good for you! (But keep practicing – don’t let your skills get rusty!) If you’re a poor listener or an average listener, here’s an exercise to improve your skills: go to a public place with a lot of people (a mall food court, busy restaurant, or airport waiting area) and listen to the conversations around you. Try to pick out key points – what are people saying to each other? How are they saying it? Can you figure out what their conversation is about? Training yourself to process information this way will help you focus during a one-on-one conversation.
Remember: if you’re a great listener, it inspires your client to be confident in you and the product/service you offer. They’ll feel you really understand their needs, and you’ll get their business consistently.
“The opposite of talking is waiting.” – Fran Leibowitz