Doing the Active Listening Exercise Circuit

(Blog #7 in the ongoing series derived from a book Harris DeWese wrote several years ago—“A Year of Selling Profitably.” The book was written for printers to use as a guide in training their sales teams through a series of two-hour sessions over 48 weeks.)

Way back in the dark ages when I was selling all day every day, I discovered I had the ability to leave a sales call—whether it lasted 15 minutes or three hours—and have almost total recall for what was said by the customer. I was blessed with “sales concentration.”

Customers sensed my concentration, were pleased that I listened and, consequently, I was successful in sales. I don’t know how I got this ability. I sure needed it because I was not pretty or charming.

Later I learned there are rules for good listening, and here they are.

Exercise 1: (30 MINUTES)

Poor listeners can improve their listening skill simply by becoming aware of this weakness—being consciously incompetent. It means you know what you don’t know and, hence, you are more apt to try to improve.

Begin this session by creating a list of ways to become an active listener. If you get stuck, review the following rules:

Focus on getting something out of even the most seemingly mundane conversation. It might be a new perspective on a previously discussed matter, a new idea or confirmation of something you suspected the buyer wanted, but never stated.

Focus on ideas, not just facts. A listener who focuses primarily on facts will often overlook the buyer’s attempt to convey a theme, an idea or a point of view.

Be flexible as you listen, and take notes. To be flexible in your note taking, don’t take notes until you understand the speaker’s main idea. Remember to adapt your note taking to the source—if the exchange is organized, you may want to outline it; if not, just jot down the main ideas.

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Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something." He is chairman/CEO at Compass Capital Partners and an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of info regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 100-plus printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the industry. He specializes in investment banking, M&A, sales, marketing and management services to printers.

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