Listening: The most effective tool in your toolbox

One of the most overlooked activities that most sales people fail to employ is the art of listening. In fact, most disagreements, shattered relationships, and missed business opportunities are due to the lack of listening. Listening is a skill that top flight sales pro have developed into a fine art form. It cost absolutely nothing, yet it is worth your weight in gold. Listening is an acquired skill that changes and enriches everyone involved in a project. An Optimistic Insurance Professional has learned the transforming quality of this discipline and uses it in all their dealings with their clients. The by-product to the Sales Pro is that listening gives you the opportunity to discover what your clients are needing and wanting in order to be successful. Secondly, clients are an essential resource for new ideas to improve the overall performance of any organization. The clients are on the front lines, so they are in a unique position to assess and critique the operations of the organization. Thirdly, you are able to deepen your relationships by listening to others by sharing empathy for their desires, appreciation for their contribution and love for their friendship. The degrees of listening is to first understand the differing degree of this valuable characteristic.

Listening can be defined as:

“the ability to focus one’s entire attention on a person, place or event in order to understand and retain the experience without the conscious need to interject your own opinions, feelings and attitudes about the content.”

The degrees of listening are non-attentive listening, selective listening, attentive listening and empathetic listening. I will briefly cover these stages of this skill.

Non-attentive listening is when the listener is receiving only a partial amount of the content due to a variety of reasons from no interest, no perceived value or an urge to influence the situation.

The next stage is selective listening that is the situation when the listener is focus only what they want to hear or interpreting what they are hearing to reach their objective.

Attentive listening is an elevated state of listening that encompasses the listener being engaged to what the speaker is saying and seeks understanding in the content.

The pinnacle of listening is the final stage of empathetic listening. This effective stage is activated when the listener is fully engaged with the speaker. The listener is focused on not only the words, but is acutely aware of the feeling behind the words of the speaker. In this advanced stage the listener seeks to interpret the meaning behind the words of the speaker. The deepening of the experience of the dialogue is further enhanced with incorporation of a variety of strategies to develop understanding and have a positive exchange with the speaker. The listener utilizing techniques such as paraphrasing that gives the speaker a chance to expand, clarify or correct their content. I like to coin the word, ‘para-gagers’ that are as follows:

  • So what you are saying is —
  • Do you mean —–
  • In other words you see it —-
  • The expression that I am receiving from you is —
  • I might have the wrong feeling, but I think you mean —
  • Then what you are saying is —
  • So you feel that — 

This strategy will improve your communication dramatically. There are two types of listening which are passive and active. Passive does not imply weakness or shyness, rather it seeks to absorb the complete meaning of the speaker without offering any assistance. Active listening entails using different strategies in improving the communication process such as previously mention paraphrasing, but may also include mirroring along with speech sense affinity. The mirroring strategy can be defined as involving the listener more intimately with the speaker by mirroring the speaker physical posture, speech tempo and gestures which seems to create a more comfortable exchange between the two parties. On the other hand, speech sense affinity is a unique strategy that identifies the sense that the speaker uses to process information. This is apparent with sense phrase such as: 

  • Vision: I see that the markets are coming back.
  • Audio: I hear that the interest rates are artificially low.
  • Taste: I have a bad taste in my mouth about this situation.
  • Smell: Something smells fishy about the whole project.
  • Touch: I feel that this situation requires more attention from us. 

This is to serve as a helpful hint in improving communications with other. It is true that some people may have developed the habit of speaking in certain ways and it may not necessarily mean that they process information for that particular sense.

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