“If you’re talking more than 35 percent of the time you’re with a customer, then you’re not listening, which is the best way to sell.”
Charlie Clifford, Founder of Tumi Luggage, quoted in Inc. May 2011
Listening is a communication skill that most of us intuitively recognize as key, yet it can take a lifetime to master. (I include myself as one of those still working to improve). Traditional listening skills advice such as “pay attention” and “repeat comments back” seem to lack depth and insight. Does remembering to lean forward and make eye contact every ten seconds make for an effective listener, or is it just a mechanical exercise in theatrics that ironically directs the purported listener’s attention even further inward? How can we turn our good intentions to become good listeners into action and results?
Story offers a new perspective. Consider this definition of listening. Deeply active and generous listening means helping someone else to share their story. Imagine yourself as the executive producer of your client’s story. Your job is to create an environment that will bring their story to light. This could mean asking deeper questions and paraphrasing. It might mean encouraging and getting involved in the story. Or it might be as simple as devoting the time, space, and quiet attention to allow them to share that story freely.
* Photo courtesy of B Rosen