On the surface, conversation seems easy! You talk, they talk.. bonding begins..right? But then you find that your mind starts to wander. You begin looking around the room at who else you may be able to make contact with, and the person in front of you just seems to drone into the background.
Relationships develop leads better than any other form of lead generation, and knowing this means that we need to cultivate strong vibrant relationships with people. The ONLY way to do this is to have true understanding and that can only happen when we are listening. Connection and trust are much easier to earn if you master the art of effective listening.
Here are a few techniques that will help you improve your listening skills and lead to deeper connections with your clients and prospects.
What is Effective Listening?
A technique known as active listening will help you create the habit of becoming a better, more effective listener. It intentionally focuses attention on who you are listening to. The goal is to fully understand what the person is trying to convey. As the listener, you should be able to repeat back in your own words what they have said. It does not mean that you agree, just that you understand.
Prepare to listen with a positive, engaged attitude.
Stay involved in the conversation by avoiding the urge to multitask. Keep your phone in your purse on silent and make the conversation your current priority. Avoid being critical, stay positive. This will allow you to receive the information being shared. Your comments, concerns and ideas should be tabled until they are asked for or are necessary for the conversation to progress.
Be sure that you set aside any prejudices or opinions that you have. You are here to learn what the other person has to say.
When communicating with others, you will experience a bunch of subtleties that exist in the exchange of thoughts and conversations. It is very hard to just listen to someone without starting to formulate the next thing that you are going to say. If you spend your time formulating your response, you will have a hard time understanding and retaining the details of the conversation. The goal here is to focus on the person communicating. Follow and understand the speaker as if you were walking in their shoes. Listen with your ears but also with your eyes and your intuition. Be aware of non-verbal acknowledge points in the conversation. Resist the urge to agree or disagree and encourage the train of thought by being involved. Respond to questions and directions. Use your body language and your attention to encourage the speaker. Doing so will communicate that you are genuinely interested.
Women are multi-taskers, we feel as if we can hold a conversation with someone and share just about anything and everything that comes to mind. Often that means that we don’t come to a concise point, or we loose our train of thought. If you find that this happens to the person you are trying to listen to, it is OK to be bold and step in. Politely share with them that you are confused, and find a creative way to bring them back to the point they were attempting to share. Ask them what you would like to know without sounding disinterested. Some people you speak with will get right to the point, while others will talk socially. Clarifying your understanding of the other person can include indulging in long tangents of unrelated social exchanges that help you bond and form a strong friendship. The key here is to be flexible enough to let it flow, while keeping your goal for the conversation in mind.
Once the speaker has shared what they needed to, take a few moments before responding. Express your appreciation for what they shared. Complimenting is a great way to set them at ease, and share your investment in them. Restate key points to them. This will help you affirm your understanding and give them a chance to clarify additionally if necessary.
People love to talk about themselves and often will think you are a great conversationalist if you talk about them and not yourself. Don’t let the conversation stall after the person has answered—be ready with follow-up questions or build on the topic. And avoid obvious inquiries. Cathy Svacina, a 60-year-old marbles expert and tournament referee from Kansas City, Mo., likes to ask people what they do for fun. “That immediately tells me more about who they are than what they do for work,” she says.
People don’t just want to talk, they want to be heard. When you confirm for them that they were heard, they will like, trust and respect you. It is at this point that you will have no problem stating your idea, product or service and how it might relate to their situation. Invite them to respond to your comments, and keep the conversation focused on “hearing them”.
Don’t forget to get their contact information before walking away, and make an agreement with them to follow up at a later date. I really like to schedule a meeting right then and there if there is great energy, but that isn’t always the case.
It really doesn’t matter if you feel a little awkward doing this at first, keep practicing! We all stand to improve our conversation habits. The fundamentals here are a great stepping stone to do just that!
Have you worked on your active listening skills before reading this? What did you do? Tell us below in the comments.