Active listening skills can not only help build better business relationships with your customers, partners, and vendors; but they can also increase your chances of promotion. When the Harvard Business Review surveyed subscribers to find out the most important requirement for making an executive promotable, subscribers overwhelmingly rated the ability to communicate at the top of the list. They ranked it more important than ambition, education and hard work. Exercising effective active listening skills can increase your chances of creating new and repeat business; and help build better business connections and lasting relationships with key business partners.
Let’s face it, most people think that they are truly listening to others, but according to an infographic from Get In Front Communications, there’s a lot more than “hearing” happening when we communicate. In fact, 55% of the meaning in our words is derived from facial expression, 38% is how the words are said, and only 7% is in the actual words spoken. This means that words are not the only thing that is important during conversations with others.
Here are 5 tips for putting your active listening skills to work:
1. Know the Difference Between Hearing vs. Listening
Hearing is one’s ability to perceive sound, but listening is the process of giving thoughtful attention to what we hear. Internal and external factors can interfere with our ability to practice active listening skills.
For example, external noise could be a cell phone ringing during a sales pitch or an important client meeting. An example of internal noise; could be focusing on chores that need to be completed after work while having a conversation with someone else. Internal noise can prohibit you from listening to the message. Improving your listening skills will help you assure others that they have your full attention.
2. Improve Your Message Delivery
When it comes to the delivery, you want to ensure that the message is being delivered in the way that you intended. Often times, our delivery is one of the major reasons why people are turned off and are disinterested in our products and services. This is where you have to apply the active listening. Consider your audience, what you’ve heard and think about what to say and how to say it. Appropriate delivery also consist of the correct tone that is appealing to the audience.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to delivering a message. How your message is perceived by partners, vendors, and customers plays an integral part in how they respond. During your message delivery, people are always paying attention to your body language and movement. Another article by the Huffington Post on body language confirms that 80-90 % of the meaning of a message lies in the non-verbal part of it. Actions speak louder than words.
3. Create Appropriate Language & Content
Selecting audience appropriate and culturally sensitive language to deliver an effective message is another key part of utilizing active listening skills. Using jargon; deters people from understanding the message, as things get lost in translation. One of your goals for sharpening your active listening skills is to create conversations that people can understand and relate to. By doing this, you create lasting connections and build rapport with your audience. Make sure to tailor content for each specific audience and make adjustments as needed.
4. Practice Active Listening
Active listening; is defined as listening with a sense of purpose and involvement. This means listening with your eyes and with your heart. You should give your clients and vendors your undivided attention during meetings, follow up calls etc. Active listening is most effective, when you are able to block out internal and external noise. When delivering an important message, make sure to create an environment that is conducive to active listening such as a quiet coffee shop or a conference room.
5. Paraphrase Often
Paraphrasing is restarting another person’s message in our own words. This forces you to digest the sender’s message and then ask for confirmation that you understood the message. This technique can be utilized daily by your sales and customer service teams to ensure that they are hearing your customers correctly and that they understand their needs and concerns. Paraphrasing shows the sender that you care about their message.
Active listening skills can be useful in establishing last connections and improving communication. If you’re looking for ways to improve the customer service experience, drive better partner engagement, or to build stronger relationships with partners and team members; start with active listening. Include a focused course on active listening skills in your training programs. Your resellers and sales teams should know how to effectively listen to a prospects needs and your customer success teams should be able to apply the skill when solving a customer issue. The power of active listening goes beyond just rapport -- it really can be the difference between a penny earned and another on saved.
Keisha Stoute is a content curator with 11 years of business experience in a number of industries. She is also an adjunct professor, empowerment writer, well respected professional mediator and principal trainer at Stoute Communications.