Communication is at the root of all success in life, and this doubly apply with business, where it’s those who listen that land the most lucrative deals. Networking walks hand in hand with productive communication, but there’s one thing that stands in your way from becoming a master in the art of networking. You don’t listen. Active listening is the single most important passive skill to truly master, if you’re to deliver killer pitches out in a business event.
Good listeners instill respect and trust into other. They develop other crucial communication skills like diffusing conflict, because they gain a deep understanding of issues, irritations and problems. A good understanding of a situation gives you specific ideas on how to resolve it. So how do you become a master listener by the time of your next business meeting?
It’s true for most of us that we’re not actually listening to when another person speaks, but often are aware of the ebb and flow of a conversation to figure out when is the most appropriate time to interject and offer our own point of view. Most conversation partners are too busy thinking about what to say rather than listening what’s been said. In sales, this sin is all the more prevalent since all you want to do is pitch a product. The key to listening is to drop the script (by this we mean not forcing the conversation to return to your product every time) and fully focus on everything being said.
A customary rule in conversations is to acknowledge the person speaking. What everyone wants is to be looked at in the eye, whenever we say something. It’s why eye contact is the simple most effective way to show that you’re paying attention. Don’t check the time. Don’t browse through your phone. Don’t look away. If you have difficulty looking people in the eye (there are people who become nervous), then look at the person’s ear. This way you’re not taking the brunt of eye contact, but are not disrespectful as well.
Once you do learn to fully devote your attention to someone, you may overdo it by focusing solely on what’s being said to a point you forget feedback. What you may think come off as concentration on your part is then perceived as you being completely disengaged and shut down. You should be ideally smiling. Involve your facial expressions. Nodding is highly appreciated and you should face the speakers as to convey your openness.
In business, the personal may seem as completely superfluous and unnecessary to involve, but the alternative is also true – keeping a business meeting solely to sales pitches and negotiations is dull and cold. We recommend you find common ground with whomever you’re supposed to impress and that means learning something early in the conversation that you can use a bridge. This means you keep an ear out for every single detail. Because you’re listening with a purpose, this may turn out to be easier to help you listen.
What we’re alluding to here is that at certain appropriate moments, you revisit an earlier talking point with a comment using similar words as the ones you heard. This concept of paraphrasing is called mirroring and used in two ways – 1) signal you’re listening, and 2) dispelling any possible misunderstanding.
The point of listening is also to really understand as we mentioned above misunderstandings are a common byproduct of communication. Undesirable as though they may be, they are unavoidable, so it’s best to ask questions. Pace yourself fully, because there is a fine line between a competent professional asking poignant, relevant questions and a simpleton with no understanding. This sort of active engagement with what you receive as information is one of the best ways to come out of a meeting or chance encounter a winner.
Interruptions often are classified as a power move in conversations. It’s a way to wrestle control over a conversation and convey the message ‘my opinion and my voice deserve to be heard over yours’. Especially in a business setting, you should avoid this habit thoroughly and completely. If the interruption has something to do with confusion around the talking point, wait at an appropriate time to address the point or disagreement.
At a trade fair or an exhibition, you will have countless conversations with strangers and you might think that you should only put effort into the conversations, where you stand to gain an immediate profit. But there’s no guarantee that the stranger you’ve cut off on the line for coffee won’t be of importance later on. It pays to be polite and engage in every single interaction, because even if not every conversation leads to success in business, it’s at least an opportunity to test out your listening skills!
How many times have you declared that you’re a great listener? If you’re confident in yourself, then why don’t you prove it and see how many of our 8 listening strategies you practice.