Tag Archives: better communication

No One Ever Listened Themselves Out of a Job

listen2Following-up on our previous post about the power of questions, it only seemed right that we address the other ‘half’ of the probing equation: LISTENING.

In an earlier post we shared some facts about listening; and as you may know, most communication experts consider it to be the most important communication skill. Unfortunately, listening also tends to be the communication skill at which most of us are the least proficient.

A well-known quote from Calvin Coolidge exemplifying this perspective: “No man ever listened himself out of a job!”

If we’re able to enhance our probing skills and, as a result, ask better questions during sales calls or important meetings, it is important that we effectively listen to the answers to those questions.

Here are three best practices for improving our ability to listen:

  1. Prepare for sales calls or important meetings in writing. As noted in the previous post referenced above, is best to put an equal amount of focus on what we will “say” as well as what we will “ask” when preparing ourselves. However, one of the key benefits of preparing ourselves in this fashion (in writing) is that it eliminates the biggest obstacle to good listening – that being the distraction associated with thinking about what WE will say or ask next while others are speaking. If we’re distracted in this way, we cannot listen effectively.
  2. Set a desired TALK / LISTEN ratio as part of the pre-call or pre-meeting plan outlined in item #1. Most people agree that they communicate differently (and more effectively) when they have given themselves a target to “only talk 40%” or to “listen at least 70%” of the time during interactions with others.
  3. Take notes during sales calls and meetings – and to be clear, these notes are not the same as meeting minutes, as the intent is to capture highlights rather than everything that is said.  Wondering why? Well, note-taking helps us to maintain a stronger focus on what others are saying because it keeps our mind from wandering. It also turns our listening into a multi-sense activity (i.e., we listen with our ears, our sense of touch and our eyes).


Communication Strengths Can Be Assets & Liabilities!

communication-breakdownFor those of us who are involved in selling, I’d like to suggest that communication is the tool we use most frequently in the doing of our jobs.

In addition, many who have chosen sales as a profession are very comfortable when communicating with others – which can be both an asset and a liability!

Consider that the high-degree of comfort many of us feel with respect to meeting people, making sales calls, presentations, and telephone calls can result in a tendency to place too little value on the importance of preparing ourselves…

As a result, the risk of miscommunication escalates… and the data shows that miscommunication happens more than most of us realize!

In fact, failure to diagnose communication-related problems is quite common. Consider that a person who is a poor listener really doesn’t know what he or she has missed! In other words, they don’t realize that they do, in fact, have a communication-related problem.

One Simple Solution
To take a step toward a heightened communication awareness level and better communication, consider that people have a tendency to think about communication in terms of speaking – as in, “So and so is a great communicator because she speaks so well!”

Instead, we’ll be better-off once we recognize (and appreciate!) the critical communication-related skills, which are:

  • Planning: list multiple objectives… the things we’d like to accomplish during each conversation, sales call or presentation, and how we’ll optimize both our verbal and non-verbal messaging
  • Probing: in addition to listing speaking points, list some of the key questions we’ll ask
  • Listening: set a target TALK/LISTEN ratio as part of the plan
  • Proactive Style: list desired outcomes (the things we’d like our audience to commit to) and the proactive next steps that we hope will be consequential to our communication

Those who have adopted this perspective, and who take the time to plan important conversations, sales calls, presentations and meetings,  consistently report that their interactions with others are better… that their sales calls are more productive, their presentations more persuasive, and their efficiency far greater.

But not only do they see the difference, but their customers and audiences see the difference as well!