Being a good listener helps in establishing rapport. Focusing your attention on making your client feel important and understood requires you to talk less and listen more. Clients do not need information overload; they just want you to use your knowledge to solve their problem, or to tell them what they need to know.
Five ways to sharpen your listening skills are:
1.) Ask clarifying questions.
2.) Let the client finish their sentences.
3.) Resist distractions.
4.) Remain calm.
5.) Be nonjudgmental.
Listening is a skill that takes practice to master, but it will help you to alleviate misunderstandings and be more in tune with your clients. Be open-minded so you can hear your client’s point of view without prejudging what they are saying. Make an effort not to interrupt your client and allow them to finish their thoughts.
Your body language says a lot about how good a listener you are, so look at the other person and pay attention to the messages you are giving out. Try nodding occasionally, smiling and encourage your client to continue with comments like "yes" and "uh huh".
Give feedback by paraphrasing what you have heard. "Sounds like you are saying...” or “In a nutshell what you’re saying is...” are ways to summarize and show that you understood what your client was communicating.
It’s a challenge to remain focused but well worth the effort to work on your listening skills. It will help you to avoid misunderstandings and improve your ability to persuade and negotiate.
Rosemary Smyth, MBA, ACC, is a columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. She lives in Victoria, BC. Visit her website at www.rosemarysmyth.com
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