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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).