If you want to be more productive and increase sales, try listening. It's a fact that people just don't listen well. In this culture we have a saying. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Think about a typical business meeting. Step into any meeting and you will see members vying for air time. Most onlookers would assign power to the speaker and identify the listener as passive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listening is power. Listening empowers people to take responsibility, to be more productive, to influence their environment, and to increase the bottom line.

Listening reduces stress

Studies have shown that improved communication skills can actually reduce stress! Listening and communication skills give you the tools to manage conflict and feel a sense of control in the workplace. Most people listen to two radio stations: W.I.I.F.M. (What's in it for me?) and M.M.F.I.A.M.(Make me feel important about myself.) Employees are more productive when their ideas are listened to and acted upon. They will go the extra mile when their feelings are validated.

This is true in personal relationships. As a seminar leader, it was always difficult to convince sales people to make support statements. A support statement is an acknowledgment of the customer's need. ("I can understand why price is important." or "I agree. Image is a high priority.") This validates the customer's concerns and creates empathy and trust.

Listening improves relationships

One young salesperson decided to try this technique with his wife. The next morning he returned to the sales seminar and announced, "It works." When questioned, he explained that there had been an issue that had to be resolved. Instead of his usual attempt to jump in and offer solutions, he listened and acknowledged his wife's feelings. He added with surprise, "The problem disappeared!" All she wanted was someone to listen.

Too often when an employee complains, we rush to solve the problem without having all the facts. By listening, we gain the information we need and we empower the employee to solve the problem.

Listening increases sales

Listening is the #1 communication skill needed in selling. It is a common belief that if you are not talking you are not selling. The truth is you can talk your way right out of a sale.

Not listening costs money

Companies can no longer afford to not listen. Consider what happened in one insurance company. A woman was bit by a dog. The medical bills cost only 130 dollars but they could not settle the claim. They offered another 800 dollars just to close the case. They were at an impasse. Finally, someone decided to listen. They asked, "What do I have to do to settle this claim?" The woman answered without hesitation, "Apologize." This woman was Asian and in her culture it was unacceptable to injure someone and not apologize. Imagine the time and money that was wasted because no one was listening!

Listening saves money

Listening actually increases the bottom line. American Airlines saved thousands of dollars by listening to one employee's idea. A flight attendant noticed that the passengers were not eating the olives on their salads. The airline listened and stopped buying olives. Not one passenger complained. By eliminating olives they saved $40,000 dollars a year. By adopting listening as a corporate policy, the airline saved a total of 180 million dollars.. They bought a brand new jet with the savings.

Listening is a learned skill

So with all these benefits, why don't people listen better? They don't know how. We have not been trained to listen. Below are some tips to help you improve your listening skills.

As we move from being product driven to customer driven, as we move from a national market to a global economy, listening will be the key to surviving and thriving in the twenty-first century. We are dependent on numerous people to give us information to effectively do our jobs. That requires listening.

Listening will be the skill necessary for career success. The Carnegie Foundation did a study which determined that 80% of the people who lose their jobs do so because of an inability to communicate effectively.

Listening empowers employees and companies to make better decisions, increase profits, productivity and sales, reduce conflicts, and improve relationships. In the words of Diogenes, we have two ears and one mouth so that we will listen twice as much as we speak. Empower yourself and others-LISTEN!

Improve Your Listening Skills With These Tips:

  • When tempted to interrupt, take a sip of water
  • Use listening CPR to resolve conflicts-clarify, paraphrase, reflect and review
  • Listen with a purpose. This prepares you to listen
  • Use a combination of open and closed questions
  • Control your emotions. Identify your trigger points or emotion words
  • Practice being alert and attentive
  • Reflect feelings to show understanding and empathy
  • Prepare the environment for optimum listening by eliminating physical distractions
  • Listen for hidden meanings. What is the speaker really saying?
  • Tune into body language and intonation patterns
  • Keep an open mind. Do not judge the listener's appearance or style
  • Get enough rest to be physically and mentally able to listen
  • Take a few notes to keep you focused
  • Use mnemonics to aid memory retention
  • Mentally summarize the main points
  • Respond verbally and non-verbally with direct eye contact and facial expression
  • Evaluate evidence
  • Don't change the subject
  • Listen openly. Do not mentally rehearse your answer
  • When you hear the words, 'in summary' pay particular attention

Copyright © Diane DiResta. All rights reserved.

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Author's Bio: 

Diane DiResta is president of DiResta Communications, Inc. - a New York City-based consultancy firm serving Fortune 500 company executives, celebrities and sports figures who want to project a more powerful presence and communicate with greater impact. Diane is the author of the Amazon.com best selling public speaking book, Knockout Presentations.