Listening: Don't just await your turn to speak
By Sandy Schussel
Sandy Schussel, LLC
The ability to listen with focus will help you master the art of getting and keeping clients. Anyone who is married knows that we often neglect to really listen to one another.
I could call my wife, Hannah, from my office and say something like, "Honey, you won't believe this! I got to work fifteen minutes late this morning and when I looked out the window, there was a flying saucer with two little green men in it. They waved and then flew off into space!"
Hannah would then probably ask, "Why were you late? You left on time."
We tend to listen to one another, surf the Internet and watch television — all at the same time. When we do, the "listening" part of this multitasking ends up being pretty passive.
Some of my clients and friends have taken courses on active listening. They've been told, "When you're speaking with a client, stop everything else, put your papers aside, turn away from your computer, make eye contact with the client, concentrate on the words he/she is speaking, and don't interrupt."
All of these tips are truly important, but they can't prevent us from the problem of being listeners who are really just waiting for their opportunity to speak. Even when we stop all activity and elect to listen actively, our minds often cannot help but race through responses to whatever it is that our client or prospect is saying. Because those wheels in our heads are turning, we may miss the most important component of communication — the emotions behind our clients' words.
Listening with total focus on your clients requires all of the skills you need for active listening, but adds the requirement that you let go of the need to ready a response. Listen to their words, listen for the emotions behind their words, and observe their body language. Step outside of yourself, and pay attention without standing at attention, ready to pounce in and solve problems. Take in what your clients are saying, but also absorb what is behind what they aren't saying.
Professionals who are totally focused on their clients and prospects are always more likely to win — or keep — the loyal advocates who give them business. But cultivating this level of focus takes practice.