Are you listening carefully?

IMG_1000It has been said that you should talk and listen in the ratio of one mouth to two ears!  On this basis, how you listen is twice as important as what you say and how you say it.  How do you listen?  Surely listening is listening you are either listening or you are not?  What do you think?

Imagine two situations.  In the first you are in a product briefing being given by a supplier whose products you don’t sell much.  It is Friday at 4:30PM, the sun is shining outside, the room is hot and the presenter is appalling!  He is talking in a monotone and has been taking about the same graphic for the past 30 minutes.  Half the people in the room are asleep!  How are you listening?

In the second situation you are with the senior buyer of your largest client.  He is describing his plans to take your complete product range.  You know that by the end of this meeting you will have done your annual target for sales twice over!  How are you listening?

Given these two situations, there are different levels of listening:

  1. Glazed Eyes.  You are not far away from dropping off to sleep.  You would be hard pressed to remember anything about what has been said at all.
  2. Automatic Response.  This is typical in meetings and conversations where your mind is somewhere else.  You are making the standard, automatic responses to the other person: “Sure”, “Yeah”, “oh that’s nice”, “no problem” and so on.  You wake up with a start when you realise that you have congratulated him on his son’s drug addiction problem!
  3. Last Few Words.  This goes all the way back to the schoolroom when you were listening with one ear whilst daydreaming.  The teacher asks you “What was I just saying, Smith?”.  You are able to dredge up the last few words that the teacher said and thus avoid their wrath.
  4. Answer Questions.  If you can answer questions about the discussion, you are paying attention and thinking about the subject in hand.  When you are in this mode of listening you stand a reasonable chance of remembering some of the discussion later.
  5. Tell Someone Else.  If you can tell someone else about the discussion, you are attentive and probably verifying the information as you go along with questions and confirmations of your own.
  6. Teach Someone Else.  If you are also able to teach someone else about the material, you are at the peak of attentiveness.  This is the optimal state of listening.  You are enjoying the subject matter, confirming points with questions of you own and you feel highly involved in the conversation.

Now, consider how the other person will feel about you if you are listening to them at level 1, or level 3, or level 6?  Do you think that they appreciate being listened to?  If so, do you think that she will be able to tell the difference between the different levels at which you may have been listening?  Of course she can! Rapport develops rapidly between two people where they are both actively listening to each other.  That is, they are both listening at level 4, 5 or 6.

Actively listening to someone is the fastest way to build rapport with that person.  And selling is all about influencing the buyer to your point of view.  By actively listening, you can persuade without saying anything!  When you do speak, isn’t it likely that the other person will now pay attention to you as well?  He or she is going to actively hear your sales message rather than listening with glazed eyes.