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.
• Visualize as you listen. Converting the speaker’s words into pictures puts details in perspective, improves retention and increases comprehension.
• Listen for bottom-line information. Every time you listen to a buyer, you should come away with some basic, bottom-line information, such as the main idea of the communication, the details or opinions provided to support the main point, and the conclusion or action required.
• Listen analytically. Research shows that most people speak at a rate of 150 to 180 words per minute, and think at a rate of 600 to 800 words per minute. That gives the listener plenty of time to identify parts of the message that require clarification.
• Practice message-checking, which increases the likelihood that the listener will remember the message. After a message is received, visualize it, then paraphrase it with statements such as, “What I hear you saying is...” or “Let me get this straight, you are saying...” This allows the speaker to verify the accuracy of what the listener heard.
• Give verbal and non-verbal feedback. Clear up questions, clarify doubts; use consistent facial expressions to avoid confusing the speaker; avoid interrupting or finishing the speaker’s sentences; do not glance at your watch, yawn, stretch or close up materials while listening; and position your body in an attentive manner, turned toward the speaker, sitting straight or slightly leaning in.
• Increase your listening capacity and expand listening experiences. Attend lectures, listen to technical presentations or participate in professional seminars so you can practice your listening skills.
A Year of Selling Profitably
By Harris M. DeWese with Jerry Bray
Employ techniques and tools that turn weekly sales meetings into energetic learning experiences, resulting in a more enthusiastic, more motivated, and more effective sales force. Understand how these techniques and tools required to build successful marketing, sales and, ultimately, profits, will help you achieve “A Year of Selling Profitably.” Click to order a copy.
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.