Spoken word is only small part of communication

Some statistics indicate that between emails, texting and social media, we spend between three and four hours a day using technology to communicate. These types of discussions mean we use short, to-the-point statements, rather than in-depth conversations.

Some statistics indicate that between emails, texting and social media, we spend between three and four hours a day using technology to communicate. These types of discussions mean we use short, to-the-point statements, rather than in-depth conversations.

In this hi-tech era of instant communication, is it any wonder we seem to have lost our ability to listen?

Eager to respond, we cut off the other person in mid-conversation. We are focused on our next response so we don’t really listen to what the other person is saying. We assume we know where the discussion is headed and we high-jack the conversation.

I can be as guilty of this as the next person.

Be aware though, that the actual spoken word is only a small percentage of human communication. It’s proven that non-verbal messages, like a person’s body language or facial expressions, communicate more than what is actually being said.

In daily life, and particularly in sales, the best way to gauge where you stand is to ask questions. Asking a direct question will usually bring out a direct response — usually “Yes,” or “No.” Ask an open-ended question and you begin a conversation.

Asking good questions conveys a genuine interest in the other person. The other person’s willingness to answer indicates a certain level of trust. Plus, asking questions and allowing the other person to actually answer will tell you all you need to know about the decision process.

Here are a few pointers that may help.

If you’re new to sales, learn as much as you can about the sales process and why people buy. There is plenty of good material available on sales practice, both in written and audio format.

Learn how to handle a variety of situations and overcome objections by asking the right questions.

The average salesperson typically asks prospective clients the obvious questions, identifies needs and then presents the product or service solutions they think will close a sale or meet the objective of the meeting.

The active listening approach engages the client/prospect in a genuine conversation that can develop a true, in-depth understanding of their situation. Ask thoughtful questions during the conversation that will help reveal more information. Ask clarifying questions to be sure you understand before presenting a solution.

Stay in the present and focus on the person(s) speaking. Make plenty of eye contact and use simple responses that encourage the other person to provide more details.

If there’s any doubt they’re listening, ask a question in the middle of one of your sentences. If they don’t answer, re-frame your thoughts and try another approach. If they are totally distracted, respect that there may be a better time to meet with them.

When the individual finishes talking, count to two before you say anything. This will help you to not cut them off.

Look for the theme of the message by noting the key points in the conversation. Take time to write some notes to be sure that you won’t forget what exactly was said and what you need to do next.

All of us have met someone that challenges our personal and business values. It’s very difficult to separate the individual from the transaction. It’s next to impossible to establish good communications if you feel your ethics are compromised.

There are those times that you have to deal with an unhappy customer. We all know clients that vent, even yell. No one wants to listen to a hot head, and no one likes to be yelled at or criticized.

Try to remain calm and make efforts to react in a positive manner. Remember, verbal abuse is never acceptable.

You can’t fix what you don’t understand. I like to validate their position by saying something like, “If I were in your position, I would probably feel the same way.” Then ask the person to clarify the problem and summarize to make sure you understand the issues.

Once you know what the issues are, you can look for areas of agreement. Identify with their situation the best you can. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention and then gain commitment to work towards a solution.

Often, just listening and understanding each other will resolve the situation.

Active listening demonstrates that you respect someone else’s opinion. People feel confident in telling you things when they know they have actually been heard. Active listening allows you to learn all you need to know about the business, the owner and staff and management.

Listening to others is one of the greatest compliments you can pay them.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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