March is “International Listening Month” – a great time to focus on the importance of listening as a part of communication. Without attentive, active, and intentional listening where we concentrate on what is being said, we dishonor the speaker and miss an opportunity to understand what is being conveyed. In sales, it puts us at a distinct disadvantage because we miss being able to use important clues, insights, and feelings the speaker (client) is revealing to us.
In general, listening is something that we often take for granted and put way too little effort into doing it well. It is one of the keys to effective communication – hearing and understanding the other person’s message or viewpoint – yet we often are more concerned with making our own points or moving on to something we find more interesting than that conversation. Frequently, we let our minds wander as we think of other things rather than what is being spoken.
For instance, we daydream, think about all of the things we have yet to accomplish that day, think about the kids’ activities, think about matters at home, replay mentally the recent argument we had with someone in customer service about a purchase or billing concern, or concentrate more on our next question or comeback than we do in actually engaging the person talking directly to us.
Facing the people we are talking with – clients, colleagues, family, or anyone else (such as people we are meeting for the first time to learn if or how we might be able to help them) – maintaining eye contact, and giving them some assurance that we are listening and paying attention are ways that we can actively participate in listening.
However, it needs to go way beyond just the obvious signs of looking like we are paying attention to that of actually making a real connection with our customers, clients, potential strategic partners, and others. When we are discussing aging in place services with people whom we know need services and home improvements, we might learn that they are in denial or just not ready to commit to any type of a project (it could be financial or just the idea of having the work done in their home). We also may discover those who feel overwhelmed by the type of work they need to have done and what it will take in terms of time and money to get it done. There are clients who seem to want the world and have trouble bringing things into focus with us for a realistic approach to their issues. There also are people who would just like to kick the can down the road and avoid any discussion of getting older or needing any type of special modifications to help them cope with and adjust to aging issues.
So, communicating with them and gaining a total understanding of their fears, concerns, and interest level is quite valuable and important for making viable suggestions and creating solutions that serve their needs. We must maintain focus, keep them engaged, eliminate as many external distractions as possible, and concentrate on determining a proper course of action.
Listening definitely requires effort. Hearing is just a physical sensory response to sound waves cast in our direction. Listening, on the other hand, is intentional. It requires our involvement in the process. It cannot be taken lightly or approached casually.
In order to serve our aging in place clientele, as well as make the strategic connections necessary to be effective providers, we have to be excellent communications. That starts and ends with listening. Talking is important, but it’s what the other person says that matters as to how effective we are and if our message – as well as what they are conveying – is understood.