1. Turn off your self-talk. We cannot hear what the other person is saying if we have our own thoughts getting in the way. We talk to ourselves while others are talking to us. The rate of speech in our own heads is about 600 words per minute (WPM). Most people, customers included, only speak about 150 WPM. So slow down and focus on their words.
2. Hear what the other person is saying. Often we allow our filters to interpret what the other person said. A filter is anything that becomes a barrier to hearing what the other person is saying. When thinking ahead for your responses act as filters. The salesperson must eliminate filters to hear the message of the customer.
3. Physically let the person know you are listening. Eighty percent of our message is delivered in how we appear to the other person. A positive nod of the head, a verbal "Uh-huh" or "OK" are clues that you are still with them. Open body language is critical. Folding our arms in front of our body is a closed position that signals to others we are mentally turned off to their words. Solution? Keep your hands at your sides (in the listening position).
4. Paraphrase using 'I" language. To make sure you hear what the other person said, repeat key words to verify what they said. For example, say: "So, if I understand you correctly ... People don't always say what they mean. Successful salespeople paraphrase the important parts of what they heard.
One option to improving your listening skills: Place a tape recorder in the top drawer of your desk and record your side of the next eight telephone conversations. Find a quiet corner and listen to what you said. Identify one element you dislike and focus on changing it. Then put a rubber band on your wrist as a reminder of the habit you want to change and be patient. Most habits take an average of 30 days (of constant practice) to change.