Listening is an active skill.
To listen, according to the meaning given in one dictionary is “to hear with thoughtful attention”. So listen implies hearing, but the converse is not necessarily true. Very often, we hear without listening.
More Sales people fail due to poor listening rather than due to ineffective speaking.
A research showed that 70 percent of our working time is spent in communicating: broken up thus:
9 per cent writing
16 per cent reading
30 per cent speaking
45 per cent listening (supposedly listening)
The research pointed to the anomaly that the skill most used by us is the one that is least taught-infact not taught at all.
What makes listening difficult in spite of the fact that this is one skill used by all of us most of the time? Let’s look at some Barriers to Effective Listening.
1. If you are feeling anxious-may be the seniority of the contact, perhaps, he is the Company Chairman or the Managing Director- remember he is a person with normal customer needs, and will generally be a very rational person to listen to.
2. Pressure of Work- may be something is weighing on your mind and you start thinking about it rather than listen to your customer. Remember, he pays your salary, therefore you must give him the time to talk and you must take the time to listen.
3. Jargon, this can also be a barrier. If a customer uses it-don’t be afraid to say that you don’t understand-otherwise no matter how hard you listen, it will be ineffective.
4. We think much faster than we talk. Instead of listening while the customer is talking, we mentally rehearse what we are going to say in response.
5. If you are bored while listening to the customer, it will show –and he will know that you are not interested and there not listening- you must show that you are listening, if you are going to communicate.
These are some of the barriers to break down before you can begin to listen effectively. Having got rid of these barriers, how can you become more skilled at listening?
INCREASING LISTENING SKILLS
An effective listener listens, not only to words, but to the meaning behind the words. Clearly, effective listening is not a passive process: it plays a critical role in communication. The effective listener interacts with the customer in developing meaning and reaching understanding.
Several principles can aid in increasing essential listening skills.
• The listener should have a reason or purpose for listening.
• It is important for the listener to suspend judgment initially.
• The listener should resist distractions- noise.
• The listener should wait before responding to the customer. Too prompt a response reduces listening effectiveness.
• The listener should repeat verbatim, what the customer says (if required).
• The listener should rephrase in his own words the content and feeling of what the customer says, to the customer’s satisfaction.
• The listener should seek the important theses of what the customer says, by listening, through the words, for the real meaning.
• The listener should use the time differential between the fate of speech (100-150 words per minute) and the rate of thought (400- 500 words per minute) to reflect upon the content and what it means.
• The listener should be ready to respond to the customer comments.
Look at the customer.
Maintain eye contact- this will show that you are interested. Leaning forward also shows the customer that you are interested. Ask questions related to the customer’s topic-this will show that you have been listening.
You should make notes of the key issues and facts. However, do not make detailed notes at the cost of missing out important points.
When listening to customers, you may hear a lot of non-essential information. One of the principles of effective listening is to make a mental note of the key issues and facts. It is; sometimes impossible to remember everything the customer says-but you do need to remember, or note down the key issues and facts,ie the information necessary for you or your manager to take action. It is always a good idea to ask the customers.
“Do you mind if I make a few notes? What you are saying is important and I want to make sure that I don’t miss anything. The customer will then see that you are interested and listening.
BENEFITS OF BEING A GOOD LISTENER
Fewer errors in your verbal communications.
Greater understanding of the customer’s concerns.
Better Solutions to those concerns. It shows a professional caring attitude.
The customer senses your support.
The importance of listening in business and personal matters is now well recognized everywhere. Next time someone tells you “Sit back, relax and listen” do not believe him. Listening is a very active process, both mentally and physically.
Once you have mastered the art of listening to the words, you can then learn the art of listening beyond words. These are the non- verbal communication of attitudes (feelings), in which words play a very minor role:
Indicators to attitudes (feelings)
7 per cent words
38 percent voice/tone
55 percent body language
This may seem strange at first sight, but it has been found that real attitudes (feelings) are communicated silently and almost without words. The customer body language is the best indicator of the purpose and his voice/tone is the best indicator of the real meaning behind the words.