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The Essential Art of Listening

I have written previously about the need for salespeople to listen when their clients talk. I have also written blogs about common sales mistakes, which includes not listening to your client. The number one lesson in my blog about 7 Lessons of Great Sales People was to listen more and talk less.

The reality is that listening is a skill that is really a great way to defuse situations. I am as guilty as anyone, with my type-A behavior, strong opinions and short fuse ... yes, I have been known to not listen! It is a lesson that every now and then I need to re-learn, and I am sometimes reminded of that lesson when I find myself "running off at the mouth", or on those occasions when someone is "unwinding on me"!

Today was a tough day ... I had the pleasure of both situations! Me not listening when my client had a tough message to deliver, AND a supplier actually cutting me off in mid-sentence ... several times.

It can be very difficult to keep quiet and let someone "sound off", especially if you feel strongly about your position. No matter how you feel, if you can let the person have their say and hopefully show some true empathy, then the conversation will always be easier.

If you argue with the other person, whether they be customer of supplier, then you will head down a path of confrontation that is probably going to leave everyone feeling bad. Here are some things to think about next time you are about to have one of those conversations:

1. Get into the right frame of mind! Do not go into a tough discussion feeling tense, uptight or angry.
2. Be very careful to let the other person have their say.
3. Do not challenge them "head on", instead try to deflect the conversation to your way of thinking. eg. "I hear you, but have you thought of it from this perspective ...?"
4. Have your thoughts clearly down on paper before the conversation, such that you make sure you don't forget anything.
5. If the conversation starts to get animated, take some deep breaths and slow things down. Maybe even suggest each side lay out their thinking and come back to continue the conversation a little later once each has had time to consider their position.
6. Don't make serious decisions in anger ... always make sure that you give yourself time to cool off before making a business decision.
7. Recognize that this is not personal. The other person is probably as uncomfortable as you in having this tough discussion, so whether they are client or supplier be empathetic to that.

I don't pretend to be perfect, far from it, in fact I probably make more mistakes than most ... but I am willing to learn from those mistakes, and sometimes I need to learn the same lesson again! I don't think that is unusual ... are you willing to keep learning?