The Lost Art Of Listening

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How the customer relates to you depends entirely on how you listen to the customer.

Selling Advantage, By Stan Adler

The Lost Art Of Listening

It has been said that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your communications. If that's true, you can further assume that the quality of your communications is determined by the quality of your listening.

As a professional in the business of selling, you've undoubtedly been reminded personally, in print, or online of the importance of listening. Listening is something that sales trainers, consultants, and authors -- people like me -- talk about frequently. So frequently that, irony of ironies, no one listens.

People yawn when they hear you talk about listening because they think it's something they have mastered simply because they have two ears. But that is the crux of the matter: people tend to confuse hearing with listening.

You hear things all day long and, as a matter of reflex and repression, immediately make an effort not to listen. Whether it's two people talking too loud at the table next to you, or a disturbed driver yelling at you from a car window, we hear it but we don't listen to it because we can repress it. And most of us are pretty efficient when it comes to repressing "fluff" i.e. noise, random remarks, or stale, incidental or abusive conversation.

However, turn this around, and in the interest of communication versus miscommunication, we can listen just as efficiently as we repress when we make the effort. Listening is commonly defined as "making an effort to hear something" and "paying attention." Ergo, it is the effort to pay attention with your eyes and ears in a sensible and intelligent manner that allows you to participate in life as a listener.

Have you ever asked, "What did you say?" or "Would you mind playing that again?" What are you asking? You're asking to listen to something that you heard. You are requesting accessibility to dialogue, music, information, understanding, or just "stuff" (versus "fluff") that will heighten the quality of your life and someone else's at the same time.

Since the release of my new book, The Zen of Selling, I have done numerous interviews, and on more than one occasion I have been asked how important listening is to selling. My answer is as obvious as the question: It would be difficult to answer that question if I had not been listening.

Whether it's a radio interview or a sales interaction, you have to listen to make it worth your time. In your journey with the customer, every question, every word, everything you hear is worth an extraordinary effort of the ear.

How the customer relates to you depends almost entirely on how you listen to the customer. There is no way to honestly ignore the sense of that deceptively simple correlation.

Stan Adler is president of Adler Associates, a training and marketing company. For more information call (800) 308-0372 or e-mailstan7@ix.netcom.com. His new book, The Zen of Selling, has been ranked as one of "the 10 must-read business books of 1999" and is currently available in stores and online.

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