Boost Your Business: Improve Your Listening Skills

Boost Your Business: Improve Your Listening Skills

Despite the advances in technology, success in business depends on the successful exchange of information between two people.  And one of the most important business information exchanges is between you, the entrepreneur, and your potential customer.  There are two parts to this information exchange: talking and listening.  Both are important, of course, but it’s often poor listening skills that result in the loss of an opportunity.  It’s not as easy as we think to make listening a priority over speaking, so we need continuous training and practice.  Here are three steps to help you for your next conversation:

Focus on what the person is actually saying.  We are able to think much more quickly than a person can talk, so we tend to use that time to anticipate what the person will say next and to prepare our responses.  Unfortunately, we can miss important information that can cause a discussion to fall apart or leave us lacking credibility.  When you see yourself drifting from what the person is saying, gently bring your mind back to the conversation.  With practice, this will become a habit.

Validate the communicated information.  During pauses in the conversation, information can be written down to ensure accuracy.  It’s wise to ask if it is okay if you jot down a few notes. Those pauses are also a good time to ask clarifying questions or to paraphrase what the other person has just said.  Confirming what you have just heard seals the transfer of information and asking questions builds understanding.

Focus on the person with whom you are speaking.  It’s easy to get distracted in a conversation, especially in a social setting where there is plenty of other action going on around you.  But effective listening requires that you strive to understand the other verbal clues being communicated by your potential customer.  Facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language can often provide more information than the actual words being spoken.  Maintaining eye contact helps you to focus on what is being said while giving the person confidence that you are absorbed in the discussion.

The successful entrepreneur is, ultimately, a successful problem solver.  Often, the mix of products and services you offer and how they compare to the competition is less important than effectively solving a problem for someone.  But, of course, you need to really understand the problem in order to help solve it.  If you need (or want to keep) that extra competitive margin over your competition, become a better listener.

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