3 ways to be a better listener

Most of us think we’re good listeners, but are you sure of that? I’ve found there are three ways to amp up listening skills. 

When clients say they’re ‘fine’

When meeting a client, you may ask how they are and the client will generally say, “I’m fine.” And perhaps you’re so excited to see your client, you jump in with products or concepts or whatever you want to talk to your client about. When a client says they’re fine, they may not be. They may have other things they wanted to discuss with you. For example, if you’re asking a recent widow if they’re fine, they’re probably not fine. I found better questions to ask are, “How are you sleeping at night? How was it the first time you came home alone?” 

If you’re talking to a parent who’s trying to work, and they’ve got kids who are home-schooling, “I’m fine” means “I’m just not really answering the question.” Better questions for them might be, “How are you juggling everything? How are you managing to work and deal with your kids?”

Generally, “I’m fine” just means “I’m not telling you everything because you really don’t care, and you’re not asking enough questions.” So if you ask a client how they are and they say “I’m fine,” try follow-up questions to see how they’re really doing. 

Let the client star in their story

The second way to tell that you’re not listening is if you’re always jumping in your client’s story. If a client is telling you, for example, how their grandson is excelling in sports, don’t jump in with how great your kid is in sports. Instead, say something like, “Tell me more,” or “Please explain that to me” or “Aren’t you proud of your grandson?” Again, try follow-up questions and find out more about what’s important to them.

What it means when clients fidget

The third way to “listen” is actually by watching. Does your client fidget? Are they playing and twisting their hands? Are they picking their nails? Are they playing with their hair? Are they nervous about something? Is there something more they want to tell you? If you really pay attention to your clients when you’re with them, you’ll find out if they’re fine or not. Let them tell you more about what’s important to them and pay attention to their body language. 

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See more from Barbara Pietrangelo about referrals.

Barbara A. Pietrangelo, of Ada, Michigan, USA, has been an MDRT member since 1999 and is a Top of the Table qualifier. You can see more from her in ““3 ways to be a better listener.” 

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