Selling and Serving by Listening to People

There are four basic active listening skills:

Conversational. You probably do this all the time. Use a word or gesture that indicates that you are listening. Phrases like, “I see,” “My goodness,” “Wow,” “Uh huh,” and “Really?” are conversational. Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Conversation response: “Oh, no!” Nodding your head as the speaker talks is also a form of conversational listening.
Content. Choose a word or phrase from what the speaker said and repeat it in the form of a question, which encourages the speaker to continue. Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Content response: “He left?” or “He left the room?” (Another time I’ll tell how my friend, Dave, inadvertently used the “content response” to save money on a new car.)
Feeling. Tell the person what you think they are feeling based on the emotion you hear in their voice. Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Feeling response: “You must have really been frustrated!”
Mirror. Just repeat exactly what the speaker said, word for word, as a question.
Example: “Then, he got up and left the room!” Mirror response: “He got up and left the room?” Of course, use this response infrequently and with care, or the speaker will get the feeling you’re mocking him or her.

Having an effective conversation is often about listening, not offering advice. In selling this means we can do a better job by using active listening to help people clarify their thinking. Then we will know if we have a solution that will meet their need, and customers will often sell themselves as they “think out loud” with you.  The first two of these techniques, conversational and content, are ususally the most useful in a business context.

Remember this: These techniques must be used sincerely, with a genuine interest in helping people clarify their thinking, or give you needed information. If any of them are used in an attempt to manipulate people, they will see through you, and you will lose credibility.


One Response to “Selling and Serving by Listening to People”

  1. The Importance of Listening to Your Customers and Prospects « Integrity Solutions Blog Says:

    […] Instead of commenting on what the sales person said, he simply repeated part of the price quote as a question. In Dave’s case this was an involuntary exclamation of surprise, but it was interpreted as a form of clarification. Unconsciously, Dave used a form of “active listening.” […]

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