Recognizing Listening As A Necessary Skill To Establish And Grow Business Relationships…

Inspired by a post from Stacey Hanke, Founder of Stacey Hanke Inc. and Author of Influence Redefined

Most people consider themselves to be good listeners, finding it hard to admit otherwise. We know listening is vital to building strong relationships with coworkers, managers, clients, and leadership. In fact, it is considered to be the single most important communication skill necessary, valued more highly than speaking, in the business world.

We spend between 70 to 80% of each day engaged in communication, with over half that time devoted to listening, and yet we struggle to do it effectively. Because we hear speech at a rate of 500-1,000 words per minute, and only speak 125-175 words per minute, we become easily bored, distracted and inattentive.

By recognizing listening as a skill necessary to establish and grow business relationships, we can begin prioritizing our need to do it well. Here are eight ways to immediately stop talking and start listening:

1. “My turn, my turn!”

Admit it, when others start speaking you immediately begin thinking of what to say next. Speaking may be considered relatively easy by most, many fail to effectively listen. Stop competing for your turn to talk and simply listen. Deliberately concentrate your focus on the speaker, keeping natural eye contact, and tune into their facial expressions and body language. Clear your mind and focus on the message until they have completed their thoughts.

2. “Wait, let me get that.”

Few things are as inconsiderate or hard to ignore like the distraction of a device; yet, many of us are guilty of giving in to its demand for our attention. Even when we try, it is next to impossible to concentrate on someone speaking when the phone sitting next to us is buzzing with text messages, alerts, emails, and phone calls. If you’re in a conversation, silence your device. Give your respect to those speaking by removing any distractions that may compete with their message.

3. “I see. Go on.”

Active listening is more than just hearing what someone says, it’s about the desire to understand what someone is trying to convey. Mindtools — a career skills development group – reported that people only remember between 25-50% of what is heard, meaning we pay attention to less than half of what someone says. By using words of encouragement such as “I see” and “Go on,” we can boost our ability to retain conversational details. This style of interaction also promotes the conversation often revealing more details than the speaker originally considered sharing.

4. Silence is golden.

It’s important to get comfortable with silence in your conversations. Many of us are uncomfortable with quiet pauses and rush to fill the dead space. Instead, allow the silence to permeate the moment and give time for the speaker to transition between topics. Pausing between the end of their thought and the beginning of yours allows time for you to formulate a clear and concise response.

5. “What I understand you to say is … ”

Imagine the number of times we could prevent miscommunication if we took a moment to paraphrase what we thought of the speaker to say. Paraphrasing helps create an opportunity for clarification if the speaker feels they were misunderstood. It provides them another chance to communicate their thoughts and ensure everyone is on the same page.

6. “How long has this been occurring?”

Open-ended questions have power. They have the power to explore the conversation and shed light on facts that are missing. Consider how much more information you can learn if you were to ask a venting coworker “How long as this been going on,” versus “Has this been going on long?” A simple yes or no response doesn’t provide the speaker an opportunity to elaborate, but the open-ended question invites them to continue in detail.

7. “What are you saying without saying?”

While many of our conversations may be casual, some of them serve a purpose not so easily heard. Listening for the intent of someone speaking can help reveal the reason they are sharing with you in the first place. By listening intently, you can witness whether their body language, gestures, and facial expressions match their message. If not, listen for their intent. Read between the lines and identify what they are saying without saying.

8. “Just checking in on you.”

Empathy is powerful. Just because a conversation has ended doesn’t mean the situation has. If you want to build a trusting relationship with your coworkers, work on your ability to demonstrate empathy. Empathy expresses compassion and understanding for the conversation shared. Whether you are empathetic throughout the conversation or after, bringing this level of engagement to the conversation will further your relationship and create a degree of mutual respect. 

By mindfully listening to coworkers and colleagues, you will begin establishing relationships built on trust and respect. The credibility you earn as your peers’ listener will help you become their partner in success.

Leave A Strong First Impression…

Research shows most people decide whether or not they like you, and whether or not they will do business with you, within the first few seconds (yes seconds!) of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this you can take advantage of it to make huge gains in your likeability. First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Ensure that your first impression is a good one by paying attention to the following:

Maintain a strong and straight, yet flexible posture. You are a human, not a statue.

Offer a firm and gracious handshake.

Smile and maintain good eye contact.

Open your shoulders to the person you are sharing a conversation with.

Listen 2x more than you talk – be curious about them and their world.

Go Grow!

 

Cultivate Personal Relationships To Develop New Business…

We all despise “networking” – right?! The impersonal, sales-focused meetups. The forced small talk at conferences and trade shows. It’s all terrible. And for one simple reason: People are selfish. Networking fails when you focus only on yourself. Why would you ever want to spend time in a room full of people only looking out for their own interests?

However, you don’t hate spending time with friends or socializing. You want to spend time listening to them, because you know they’ll listen to you afterwards. There’s meaning and depth and understanding and connection within personal friendships.

So, what if you could make all your business relationships “personal”?

Rather than asking “who can help me?” ask “whose business circumstances and outcomes can I advance?” Reframe your “business development” efforts to “cultivating personal relationships”. It’s powerful. Because by virtue of reciprocity, those people will then form a deeper connection with you and will want to advance your outcomes.

Be Genuine When Developing New Business…

I’m in the process of selling my condo in Midtown Atlanta. It’s a hot market, and I’ve been inundated with residential real estate brokers calling me to offer their services. It’s been insightful and engaging for me to observe their individual approaches in trying to win my business. I “do” business development for a living, but I’m always learning, and this process has really opened my eyes to what sellers are doing to win new clients. It’s borderline unbelievable. It reminds me to continue to stick to the basic fundamentals of gaining trust from a prospective client. “BE GENIUNE” – if you are cold-calling someone, be honest about why you are calling. I’ve had numerous brokers call me to say they are working with a buyer who is interested in my condo, only to find out that they don’t have a buyer and really just want to be my listing agent. How are we going to work together after you initiate the relationship fraudulently? The brokers who have been honest, brief in taking up my time, and helpful in educating me are the ones who are rising to the top of my list as people to do business with. In my business, I predominantly help architects win new business. I make a lot of cold and warm calls. It may be boring when I call to simply “check in” with a prospective client to see what’s going on in their world or to inquire about one of their development projects – but I’m 1. Honest about the nature of my call, 2. Brief, and 3. When appropriate, I follow up with something educational or helpful to them.

Professional service firms often get stuck in a rut about how to develop new business. There are many B2B sales training programs out there that are heavy on gimmicky words and processes. Stick to the basics: be helpful, trust-worthy (honest), organized, educated, stay tenderly-tenacious, and most of all be GENIUNE.

Go grow!

Being Likeable…

Many people think being likable only belongs to a lucky few: the good looking, the social butterflies, and the highly talented. Likeability has nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive. Likability is all about sincerity, transparency, and being capable of understanding (another person). In reality, being likable is under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence.

Likability is powerful in business and in developing new business for your organization. When you build your awareness of how your actions are received by other people, you pave the way to becoming more likable.

Be passionate: People gravitate toward those who are passionate. Likable people are serious, yet friendly. They get things done because they focus on having meaningful interactions, remembering what people said to them both professionally and personally. This shows your prospect that you see them as a person, not just as your next sale.

Ask questions: People like to know you’re listening, and something as simple as a clarification question shows that not only are you listening but that you also care about what they’re saying. You gain respect, trust, and appreciation by asking good questions.

Be friendly and considerate: People avoid those who push their own agenda or are desperate for attention. Being friendly and considerate works. When you speak in a friendly, confident, and concise manner, people are much more attentive and persuadable. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude (sincerity, transparency, capacity to understanding other’s needs).

Be open-minded: If you want to be likable, you must be open-minded. Open-minded people are approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to do business with someone who has already formed an opinion and is unwilling to listen. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes and understand what their needs are and what makes them tick.

Go Grow!

Four Steps When Troubleshooting…

I feel lucky in business because I’m the one with the birds eye view on my clients’ organizations. It’s easier to see internally issues playing out when you aren’t in the “box” of their world. When you are internal to the organization, troubleshooting is one way to see more clearly and helps in identifying root causes and fixing them. You can think of troubleshooting as a particular mindset in which you ask a series of questions in an attempt to gain a new perspective on a business problem you may be having. It’s extremely helpful to be curious and open-minded, rather than quick to judge or show up in the “know it all” version of yourself.

Sometimes you find out what you thought was problem actually wasn’t at all. 95% of what we worry about isn’t even true. Our perception about an issue is often clouded and inaccurate. Meditation and yoga helps keep a clear mind… just throwing that out there! The troubleshooting mindset can be applied to all sorts of problems.

Four steps when troubleshooting:

  1. Is there an actual problem? Before you start solving a problem, make sure that the thing you are are solving is actually a problem. You can do this by defining and clarifying the problem. Is it simply annoying? Not necessarily a problem. Is there a clear threat to your business future? Definitely a problem.
  2. Isolate all distinct parts. After you’ve determined that you definitely have a problem, it’s time to isolate all distinct parts. Hats off to engineers – they typically are very good at this kind of stuff! In my business world, I often see clients reluctant to do certain things – adhering to an annual plan or budget and networking are often reoccurring issues when working with clients. The isolated parts on networking would be: pressure to be on billable projects, not seeing the benefits of networking, having fears about networking, preferring to spend their time in a different way, expecting other colleagues to do it, etc.
  3. Testing. This is about taking each isolated part and testing it. In my example above, I’d be asking my client to be honest about their resistance in each component. We would narrow down what they are specifically having issues with. From there, we see the root cause – let’s say it boils down to feeling pressure to be on billable projects. We see they could delegate more to their junior staff, and that then frees them to network occasionally.
  4. Course correct. Finally, we continue to course correct on a regular basis to ensure any other issues are properly addressed at the root level.

Rather than make assumptions, it’s good to implement the troubleshooting process in any area of your business or life. You get to the root cause on issues and can then take the right steps to modify. It becomes easier the more often you practice.

What Successful People Do Each Day…

Starting out from meager beginnings and having reached into what our society considers affluent, I suppose I have an opinion about what successful people do to get to where they want to go. I didn’t get to where I am simply by chance. My clients don’t either. Similar to a sports fan watching their teams, it’s fascinating to study the strategy and execution of people, teams, and organizations within professional service organizations. I see a lot just by observing. This article: “14 Things Ridiculously Successful People Do Everyday” by Travis Bradberry sums up many key tactics. The one addition I’d make is to visualize yourself in your new reality. Whether you want to lose twenty pounds or bring in $1M more in revenue, you have to see it before you become it.

Here are the others that resonate most with me:

1.      Focus on minutes, not hours.

2.      Focus on only one thing.

3.      Make it home for dinner.

4.      Process emails only a few times a day.

5.      Avoid meetings at all costs.

6.      Follow the 80/20 rule.

7.      Delegate almost everything.

8.      Touch things only once.

9.      Practice a consistent morning routine.

10.   Energy is everything. (You increase your productivity by increasing your attention, focus – if you struggle with this – try yoga or meditation).

 

 

Mind Stretching…

ENJOY this article and insight by Madyson Taylor:

Having a flexible mind makes navigating life much easier as you are not thrown off course easily.

Flexibility is the capacity to bend without breaking, as well as a continual willingness to change or be changed in order to accommodate new circumstances. People with flexible minds are open to shifting their course when necessary or useful; they are not overly attached to things going the way they had planned. This enables them to take advantage of opportunities that a more rigid person would miss out on. It can also make life a lot more fun. When we are flexible, we allow for situations we could not have planned, and so the world continues to surprise and delight us.

Since reality is in a constant state of flux, it doesn’t make sense to be rigid or to cling to any one idea of what is happening or what is going to happen. We are more in tune with reality when we are flexible. Being in tune enables us to adjust to the external environment and other people as they change and grow. When we are rigid or stuck in our ways, instead of adjusting to the world around us we hunker down, clinging to a concept of reality rather than reality itself. When we do this, we cut ourselves off from life, and we miss out on valuable opportunities, as well as a lot of joy.

Just as we create flexibility in our bodies by stretching physically, we can create limberness in our minds by stretching mentally. Every day we have the opportunity to exercise our flexibility. We can do this in small ways such as taking a different route home from work or changing our exercise routine. On a larger scale, we can rearrange the furniture or redo a room in our house. If these are things we already do regularly, we can stretch our minds by imagining several different possibilities for how the next year will unfold. As we do this, our minds become more supple and open, and when changes come our way, we are able to accommodate and flow with the new reality.

Madisyn is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the popular inspirational website and daily email, DailyOM and is responsible for all of its content. A recognized leader in self-help and new thought spirituality, Madisyn has more than 25 years experience in personal development and alternative healing methodologies. She has contributed to national publications and is a popular guest on many radio shows. Hay House published her international bestselling books, DailyOM: Inspirational Thoughts For A Happy, Healthy & Fulfilling Day, and DailyOM: Learning To Live.

Your Perspective Is Just That…

Often, we get so wrapped up in our own world, we forget that our thoughts, our feelings, and our perspective is just that – it’s a sliver perspective – not necessarily shared by anyone else.

In business and sales, be mindful of this. Don’t be too strong with your ideas and come across as if your perspective is THE RIGHT and ONLY way. Share your perspective as simply that. Share your observation as that. Clarify communication to gain better understanding. Ask good questions. Try to step into other people’s shoes to see their perspective. Collaborate. Exchange open and flexible dialogue to arrive at an optimal place for the organization you are working with or trying to sell to, etc. Go Grow!

Longer Term Business Development…

Professional service firms often emphasize creating leads now.  Short-term leads aren’t always the best leads. These short-terms prospects have typically been working with another firm for many months, and are ready to buy their services. If you call these prospects, you may be brought into the process, and you may get lucky…but the other firm has dedicated the time and effort to position themselves to win the work. You may appear opportunistic-centric rather than relationship-centric. You may end up simply being a price check.

Most professional services are not bought on impulse. Place a higher priority on generating and nurturing long-term leads. Long-term lead generation takes a “long” time – often 2-4 years. Create a strong list of prospective clients, and use a variety of marketing and business development tactics to progressively show your genuine interest in these people and their business. Simultaneously, build trust and rapport so that your prospects begin to understand your skills, capabilities, and experience.

Incorporate long-term lead generation and nurturing into your business development process, and realize, albeit over a period of time, dramatic growth within your company.

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