6 skills required for active listening
You’d think that the secret to having quality conversations would be being a good talker. But the opposite is true. It’s being a good listener. This is a skill that we teach our associates, who spend their days making dials (80 to 100 a day) and engaging B2B sales prospects on behalf of our clients.
If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you know that we have a rigorous hiring process—I maintain that the quality of our people is key to our ability to deliver high quality leads that sales will follow up on. What you may not know is that, after we’ve brought these good folks on board, we spend a lot of time training them—before they get on the phones.
We teach them how to navigate an organization, we work with them on the anatomy of a call, we practice questioning (situation, problem and implication) … and we cover other ground that helps them be better sales prospectors. Perhaps the most important topic that we go over—in detail—is the art of active listening.
Highlighted below are the six skills required for active listening, which we have adapted from the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of leadership development, for the purpose of training our associates on the skills needed to perform as expert B2B sales lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurture professionals.
- Pay attention. Set a comfortable tone and allow time and opportunity for the person on the other end of the line to think and speak. Pay attention to your frame of mind as well as your pacing. Be focused on the moment and operate from a place of respect.
- Withhold judgment. Be open to new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Even when good listeners have strong views, they suspend judgement, hold their criticism and avoid arguing or selling their point right away.
- Reflect. Learn to mirror the other person’s information and emotions by paraphrasing key points. Don’t assume that you understand correctly or that the other person knows you’ve heard them. Reflecting is a way to determine or verify that you and your counterpart are on the same page.
- Clarify. Don’t be shy about asking questions about any issue that is ambiguous or unclear. Open-ended, clarifying and probing questions are important tools. They draw people out and encourage them to expand their ideas, while inviting thoughtful response.
- Summarize. Restating key themes as the conversation proceeds confirms and solidifies your grasp of the other person’s point of view. It also helps both parties be clear on mutual responsibilities and follow-up. Briefly summarize what you've understood as you listened, and ask the other person to do the same.
- Share. Active listening is first about understanding the other person, then about being understood. As you gain a clear understanding of the other person’s perspective, you can then introduce your ideas, feelings and suggestions. You might talk about a similar experience you had or share an idea that was triggered by a comment made previously in the conversation.
Learning these active listening skills and applying them works in counseling, education, conflict resolution and management. They also work really well when it comes to identifying prospects, uncovering needs … and progressing them down the pipeline.
Read this post, written by Jim Hall, a PointClear associate, to learn how he applies these listening skills every day.
As always, I welcome your comments.