Active listening skills are a top priority for clients. According to Baker Communications, “In the vast majority of cases, the customer doesn’t want to know what you think, he wants to tell you what he thinks, how he feels and what he needs.”
This is why you should follow the 80/20 rule: use 80% of your time for listening and only 20% of your time for talking. Yet it’s easy to find yourself flipping the ratio around, prioritizing talking over listening.
At the same time, active listening can benefit entire workforces, as it strengthens communication. In turn, it’s easier to design effective processes and meet critical goals.
When you use the right active listening habits, you can build stronger customer retention and loyalty, as well as team engagement, helping you grow your business’ long-term profit. Continue reading this article to learn about what active listening is, which active listening skills you should incorporate into your sales process, and three tips to help you actively listen with ease.
Active Listening vs. Passive Listening
Did you know there are seven different ways humans listen? For the sake of this article, we will focus on active listening and its counterpart, passive listening. If you aren’t active listening, you’re passive listening. Here’s the difference:
- Active listening: While listening to a person, you interact and respond to what they’re saying, whether it be with words or mannerisms. You show that you understand and care about what the other person is telling you.
- Passive listening: You simply listen and don’t interact with what a person is telling you. No mannerisms or questions are presented that show that you care about the person’s message.
Why Active Listening Can Be So Difficult
Active listening may be a challenge for you because it requires your whole attention, which can be tricky when so many other elements are begging for your focus—social media, emails, work, and family life. Society has become good at spreading attention too thin over many areas. And active listening goes against this. It requires you to slow down and focus on one situation, one conversation at a time, so that you can listen to every detail and provide an engaged response.
Top 3 Active Listening Skills
1. Create a Judgement-Free Zone
The strongest relationships are those where you can be vulnerable but still accepted. So, you should create a safe environment like this for your clients and team. Your clients and colleagues should feel comfortable talking to you about their problems and desires. When they open up and do so, don’t judge. Instead, strive to understand their perspective and offer your advice, not your opinion.
2. Pay Attention to Your Posture
If your mind is alert, then your body should be too. Always make eye contact, and if you’re sitting or standing, face the person who is speaking. Keep your shoulders back and sit or stand straight. Slouching, looking around the room, and turning away from your client and colleague are all clear signs that you’re not invested in what they’re saying. Your posture matters.
3. Ask Questions
Remember the 80/20 rule? You don’t need to fill the entire 20% of your talking time with questions, but it’s an important way to keep your client or colleague engaged and make them feel like you care about what they share. By asking questions, you can obtain a deeper understanding of their situation, helping you form more personalized answers. However, make sure your questions are relevant and geared toward the subject matter.
Active Listening Tips: The 3 Rs
Active listening takes a lot of brain power and mental agility, so here is a guideline to help you execute it with ease.
Even if you don’t understand the person’s message right away, by repeating what they said, you’re letting them know that you’re clued in and paying attention.
Reflect on what the person has said by asking insightful questions. For example, if someone comes to a financial advisor saying they have money saved but they’d like to become more financially savvy, the financial advisor could say something like, “So you’re saving habits are already at a good starting point, but you’d like to become more knowledgeable in your spending habits to save more?”
You may deter yourself from responding as you don’t want to focus the conversation on you, but you can respond in a way that still keeps the other person as the focal point. If you follow up with a client to see how they’re doing and they explain a situation that happened recently that’s been hard on their family, you can say something as simple as, “I’m sorry that you’re going through that. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Be an Active Listener and Improve Colleague and Client Engagement
Being an active listener can strengthen your client relationships and build an engaged and confident team in your workplace. By creating a judgment-free environment, maintaining an attentive posture, and asking the right questions, you can achieve this. Replicate this pattern every time and you’ll become an expert active listener: repeat, reflect, respond.