Dear Tony, my boss keeps telling me listening is the most important part of selling and he says I talk far too much. Is he right about the listening part and what can you suggest improving this as I’m evidently not good at it?

Your boss is right and the reason being is people love to talk about themselves; their business, their problems or challenges, their personal life etc. and if we are talking, then we are NOT listening to them.

An Italian economist called Vilfredo Pareto created a law which was aptly named ‘Pareto’s Law’ which is known as the 80/20 rule. It’s been proven that in a retail environment 80% of profits comes from 20% of their products, in an office environment 80% of productivity normally comes from 20% of the staff. The same goes to sales; when you are speaking on the phone and/ or face to face, you should be aiming to speak just 20% and listening 80%. I am sure you have heard the expression ‘you have 2 ears and 1 mouth, use them accordingly.’

So how do we develop our listening skills? It’s easy to say just listen more, however in reality that doesn’t fix everyone’s problem, as some people are much better listeners than others. They are what’s referred to as auditory people and their brains are programmed differently to those who struggle to listen. However, there are 3 techniques I can recommend that will make an enormous difference to your listening skills:

1. Use the tag on questioning technique – if someone says, ‘I love Chinese food’ reply by asking ‘what’s your favourite Chinese dish?’. This will improve your conversational ability and your listening skills at the same time.

2. Summarise your conversations to ensure you haven’t missing anything. At the end of a meeting or a conversation say ‘to ensure I haven’t missed anything I just want to summarise what you’ve told me; a, b, c, d, was there anything else you’d like to add?

3. Recap and reframe in your words – as you are having a conversation, jump in at appropriate intervals and say, ‘so what you are basically saying to me is ……..’. This will help you digest the information and again ensures you have the person correctly.

Listening skills is like a muscle, the more you work on it, the stronger it becomes. Therefore, to begin with you may find it challenging, however as the weeks go on you will improve dramatically.

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