Listening is a highly essential skill to possess, hone and use in all aspects of life. Whether we’re supporting someone through grief, personal loss, meeting with a colleague, or hoping to close a very important business deal, listening is a big contributing factor. However, that being said, a lot of us are not really good at listening and are even unclear about what active listening is.
Today, we will not only do a deep dive into “what is active listening”. Since studies have shown that 55% of communication is nonverbal, we will also be looking into why active listening is important, the active listening definition, and how we can all further improve our active listening skills.
Active listening is a critical communication skill that can help improve relationships, build rapport, and increase sales success. In this article, we will explore the 7 strategies to help improve active listening and close more deals.
Respect, first and foremost, factors a lot into active listening. If you respect the speaker’s time or your customer’s needs, you will listen and pay attention to them – the definition of “what is active listening”. Avoid distractions, especially when you recognize the importance of the conversation. Turn your phone to silent mode and put it down with the screen facing away. Tidy up your desk so nothing unnecessary can catch your eye and shut the outside world away.
Focusing on the speaker is part of active listening. Remember, their facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice are just as vital as the words they say. Take notes if you can, without taking much of your concentration away from the speaker. It would be more efficient to record the conversation so you can always go back to it afterwards.
When you’re telling an exciting story, you look to your audience for encouragement and to see if what you’re saying is making its desired impact. Showing interest in what the presenter is saying is not part of what active listening is. Showing interest is also heartening to the speaker and helps you establish a relationship with him, allowing you to get to know him.
Taking a cue from the active listening definition, it helps to always make eye contact with whoever is speaking. The eyes can get a lot across without the use of words. Employing nonverbal cues such as head nodding or shaking, lifting of the eyebrows to cheer the speaker to go on, hand gestures, and even something as simple as turning, even in your chair, to face the presenter means a lot.
Sometimes asking questions doesn’t mean you’re not understanding something. You can ask a question you already know the answer to, not to catch someone out but to confirm what you already know and to show the speaker that you understand and appreciate what they’re talking about.
Nevertheless, asking questions can also be a great way to make something certain by determining the facts. This also aids those who may be having problems understanding parts of the presentation or statement. You can also ask reflective questions to demonstrate what was understood and how it was understood. Some samples of reflective questions comprise the following:
What did I learn?
What did I not know before?
How can I use my gained knowledge in the future?
Are there other interpretations of what was said?
4. Paraphrase to drive a point home or strengthen an argument
Not to be confused with parroting, which is basically just repeating what was said word for word, since a lot of people can view it as rude and condescending. Paraphrasing is repeating what was said using your own words to make the meaning and the point of the statement clearer. Repeating back what you heard is not only part of active listening but one of the best listening techniques.
You can also check for understanding to exhibit active engagement while eliminating confusion and miscommunication at the same time. Doing this reveals that you are not only listening attentively, but you also want to make sure everyone else in the room is as well. It’s another one of the communication strategies you can employ to get everyone else’s buy-ins before leading to the pitch to close more deals.
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Feedback is essential to the speaker or presenter to find out how their message is received and perceived, but most of all, the quality and overall contents of the feedback show how much the audience actively listened and paid attention to what was said. Criticism is also highly needed if you want to improve your speaking and presenting skills. Being able to provide feedback is also part of what is active listening, and as the audience, your feedback can focus on facts, feelings, or both.
Verbal feedback is using words to provide feedback after a presentation. Highlight what your observations are of the speaker and the overall message:
How passionately they feel about the topic
The thoroughness of the research
How concise the presentation is
The strength of the argument or thesis
Your observed response of the speaker to the topic physically, emotionally and mentally
Believe it or not or whether you’re aware or not, you can also provide nonverbal feedback. This can be something as simple as paying attention. You can be sitting down, watching the speaker, seemingly listening to what’s being said, but you’re actually lost in thought. Paying attention to show whether or not you agree with the message is followed by providing nonverbal feedback, which can be comprised of:
Maintaining eye contact
Hand gestures like thumbs ups
Empathy or empathetic listening, to be more specific, can be a foolproof way of preventing misunderstandings. Empathetic listening means letting the speaker finish their statement or make their point while keeping an open mind and without interrupting them whether you agree with their viewpoint or not. It’s often easy for us to jump in, cut the other person off and interject, especially when we know the answer, but empathetic listening teaches us to be patient and to listen closely as there may be some things we are not even aware of.
The most effective communication tool to empathize is to put yourself in the speaker’s shoes. You’re not thinking and feeling as you. It’s not about you at the moment. The focus, the attention, and the empathy are with the speaker so you can fully understand what they mean to say. To further improve interpersonal communication, show understanding and compassion. Active listening is using words and gestures to convey that you understand and are compassionate about their plight.
Empathizing can also be powerful in improving customer satisfaction, rapport building, and sales success. Most people are hesitant to engage in conversation once it becomes apparent that you want to sell them something. They’re automatically thinking you JUST want to sell them something. Nonetheless, active listening also means empathizing sincerely to show that you care about the person more than closing a sale.
Here are some examples of empathetic responses that you can use as well:
Acknowledge their pain or needs
Share your feelings
Express gratitude that they opened up and listened
Show interest in the conversation and topic
Be encouraging especially when inviting future contacts
Demonstrate support even after the sale
The last point is key if you want to encourage loyal customers and grow your business through word of mouth. There’s no better marketing tool than a happy and satisfied customer.
7. Practice active listening regularly
In this day and age, it’s easier to retreat into ourselves and not seek out any contact with the outside world, but this is not conducive to continuous learning, growth, and improvement. Active listening is indispensable for anyone who seeks to better themselves as communicators, whether professionally or personally. Active listening takes into account constant practice if you want to be really effective and efficient at it.
An inherent and genuine interest may be a factor in it, but active listening is an easy skill to cultivate and nourish. You only need to make it a habit. Observe how you and others communicate, learn and adopt their verbal and nonverbal cues and find out which ones you are most comfortable with. Then, go out into the world and practice!
Step out of your comfort zone and seek out opportunities to practice active listening. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised to be strengthened. You don’t even have to be speaking with a particular person for it to be an active listening practice session. Anytime you’re with someone, talking, swapping ideas and opinions, you are practicing active listening. Therefore, make it count.
Active listening brings more into the business than you may be aware of. All you need to do is to make a few changes to what you’re currently doing, and you’ll be unstoppable at it. Here are some of the ways in which you can be closing more deals through active listening to help your business thrive:
It is simply impossible to build a reputable brand if you do not have customers who can relate to you and trust you. By collecting data on your customers’ needs and pain points and addressing those with your products and/or services, you have a business that people can trust will be there for them. You can do this successfully by listening actively to your consumers and end users.
If you design a product or service towards a common need, that’s well and good. Yet, if you want your business to grow with your customers and stay abreast with the times, you need to listen actively to what their needs are. It takes dedication, attention to detail, and genuine care to really pay attention to and understand your customer’s needs. This is also a very significant practice to instill in your team.
Attempting to negotiate without listening actively to the other party’s viewpoints, opinions, and feelings is just plain arguing. You have no hope of winning over a customer by doing that. Instead, practice listening to help improve your negotiation skills. Active listening means you need to really listen to the other person and take note of what’s being said and what’s not being said. Done properly, active listening can help you negotiate better while allowing you to also:
Defuse stressful situations
Collect the information that you need
Negotiate skillfully and successfully
Increasing customer satisfaction
Never underestimate what customer validation can provide for your consumers and your business as well. Knowing that you’re really listened to as a customer helps cultivate a feeling of family and being home. If you are victorious in that, you can count on a loyal following for your brand. Here are some of the ways in which you can show customers (whether your job is people-facing or not) that you listen to them and increase customer satisfaction:
Use their name (first name is best, but some people prefer to be called by their surnames)
Throw away canned responses
Build rapport in your opening statement
Tackle their concerns point by point
Summarize the interaction
Ensure them that they can come back for other queries or concerns
Engaging with customers can be a challenge, especially since more and more people nowadays favor automated helplines and online knowledge bases. There’s also the notion that someone from a particular business will only approach you as a consumer or end user because they need something from you. Authenticity and sincerity in the way businesses communicate with customers are also questioned at times.
Using your skills for active listening on your leads aids you in really understanding what your customers’ needs and pain points are, enabling you to position your products and/or services and secure a sale. Active listening – whether you try to show or tell your customers that that’s what you’re doing – exemplifies to your prospects, leads, and consumers that you have respect for them.
If there’s an important skill for securing success in sales and closing more deals, it is active listening. There needs to be a delicate balance between speaking and listening – listening well, that is. Paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues from customers helps you find innovative solutions to their concerns, communicate your product’s and/or service’s value, and win people’s trust. Active listening is hearing out prospects and customers with intense concentration and attention to detail, responding with empathy and compassion before offering up well-crafted solutions.
Active listening facilitates open communication with both leads or prospects and consumers. And remember, happy customers are the best marketing tool because you can be sure they will get the word out about your business if they are pleased with you. Don’t miss out on the big things by not paying attention to the little things. When you have a customer in front of you or on the other end of the line, devote your time, focus, and attention to them. Active listening does not only benefit your business by aligning your products and/or services with the customer’s needs. It also creates a strong bond between your company and customers that can last a long time.
Active listening is a communication skill that entails listening to the message the other person is trying to convey beyond words. Active listening includes paying attention to nonverbal cues and including the information gathered from them in the response that is delivered to the speaker.
Active listening is important because it requires the listener to look beyond words and focus on the speaker – which boosts their confidence, builds rapport, and makes them happy. But the real purpose of active listening is to collect information to understand people and situations better before responding.
The benefits of active listening include some, if not all, of the following:
Passive listening is a form of one-way communication wherein the listener does not provide feedback to the speaker or vice versa. The speaker also does not check for understanding. Active listening involves paying attention to words, gestures, and facial expressions and responding in the same manner. A dialogue usually follows.