Improving Listening Skills
By Nancy Friedman
you’re a real estate agent, showing a five million dollar home to a
nationally known sports star. This sports star and his beautiful
actress wife really like the house. If the sale is made, the
commission will allow you to buy a new luxury car and pay off a lot
sale is about to be closed, the athlete’s cell phone rings and his
smile turns to a frown. He has just been traded and will be leaving
town. He relays the message to his wife who breaks down and cries.
Question: how old is the real estate person?
up? It’s not a trick. You might want to re-read the scenario. It
says pretend you are a real estate sales person. So how old are
was a trick, but no trickier than listening to your clients whether
you’re on the phone or in person. Listening is an art, not a
science. While we usually can hear prospects or clients, the real
question is if we’re really listening to them.
might think listening is easy. After all, doesn't everybody
listen? Listening isn’t the same as hearing. Think about a
commercial for a product you have no interest in. It’s easy to tune
that information out, isn’t it? Hearing is one thing, but listening
is another. While it’s easy to hear what the client or prospect
says, great service begins with great listening skills. Here are
our six steps to becoming a better listener:
Decide to be a Better Listener: In school, you’re taught to
read, write, do math, and dozens of other topics. But in all my
schooling, I don’t ever recall having a course on listening. Yet as
we all know, listening is a crucial skill. The first step is all
about you – your personal commitment to becoming a better listener.
You need to decide to be a better listener.
Welcome the Client or Prospect: Be overtly friendly. By being
obviously friendly and welcoming the person, it immediately sets the
stage to let the caller know that you’re interested and actively
listening. One effective way to show you're listening is to say,
“You've come to the right place.”
Concentrate: Your mind processes information much faster than
the normal rate of speech and therefore, you half-listen and do
other things too. Your brain tends to solve other problems, to
think about what you’re going to say next, other calls you need to
make, lunch plans, or a host of other activities.
needs to be disciplined to pay full attention to others and to
listen closely. Even when you try to listen closely, little things
can distract you, like a regional accent, someone who speaks too
rapidly, or when the prospect is discussing a topic you don’t find
interesting. It’s easy to be distracted by many things, but don't
let that happen. Concentrate instead.
An Open Mind: We'd go a long way toward curing the problem of
poor listening habits by not interrupting people. By carefully
listening and letting them finish their thoughts, you hear them out
completely and avoid jumping to conclusions.
remember the difference between a fact and an assumption. A
statement of fact is normally made after an observation. An
assumption can be made any time – before, during, or after an
observation (or with no observation at all).
to operate as closely as we can with facts rather than assumptions.
A good listener tries to stay objective and not be judgmental. Try
not to let personal impressions modify what you hear. Remember to
keep an open mind.
Feedback That You’re Listening: Often, when the person on the
other end of the line doesn't give you feedback, you think you've
been disconnected. Remember, with the phone there are no visual
signals. Too much silence gives the impression you're not
when you're thinking or looking for something, you need to send
feedback through a variety of short replies acknowledging the
caller. Give them a spoken signal that you're receiving the
message. Phrases like “bear with me while I look that up,” or
“let's see what the notes say,” are good examples. Also, use a
variety of replies, not repeating one word like okay, okay, okay.
Notes While You Listen and Review Notes with the Caller: This is
basic, but it’s very important. Document key words as people talk –
their name, what they need, and any follow-up items. Please don’t
take a chance on forgetting when it’s so easy to make a note.
caller gives you extra information, eliminate the unnecessary bits
that can be safely discarded. Whether you’re taking a telephone
message, helping a client, or talking to a prospect, repeat and
paraphrase the key information to be sure you’ve got it correct. It
lets the caller know you’ve really listened.
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