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!

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