Listening for Progress
Listening for Progress
By Dean Lindsay - Author of The Progress Challenge
As Freshway Foods Sales Professionals, we need to listen as if our lifestyles depended on it, because they do. Those who choose to truly listen to others will always create opportunities to help others progress and we progress as we help others progress. I don’t mean “listen” as in taking in sounds and passively processing them. To be able to deliver sales and service, we must LISTEN with all we’ve got. This is a basic but sometimes challenging principle to consistently put into practice. It means that, for the duration of our contact with the prospect, distributor, broker or customer, we step outside of ourselves – our own needs, our every preconception – and attend entirely to that customer and their needs.
“No man every listened himself out of a job.” – Calvin Coolidge
Everyone wants to feel that they are significant and have meaningful things to share. Listening helps us treat others as if they were the most important people on the planet because – in their minds – they are. Good listeners absorb and reflect on what they hear. They are active in the listening process. This requires energy and motivation, because listening is more than just hearing. To truly be in a position to deliver superior service, we must become active listeners rather than passive hearers.
Seven Laws of Listening for Progress:
1. Focus, Focus, Focus
How often do you catch yourself thinking about some unrelated issue when you should be listening?
Business philosopher Jim Rohn is quoted as saying, “One of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is the gift of your attention.” Rohn is right. Solid listening involves care, common sense, and courtesy. Often, our lack of patience or our desire to hear ourselves speak encourages us to forget about courtesy and we end up shutting down and/or disrespecting the speaker. Other times we become so fixated on our own POV that we forget to focus on listening to what the person is saying.
Sometimes our motivation to actively listen is not all that high. We think we can get by without really focusing. These are huge mistakes. The ability to understand and value what customers are saying is critical. So be determined to focus on and understand completely what others are trying to communicate.
A good way to stay focused is to continually ask ourselves: What is this person sharing with me that can help me solve their problems, accomplish their goals, help them progress?
2. Don’t get distracted…
…by other people’s nearby conversations or office noise. Work to think only about the present conversation. It is close to impossible to uncover how we can help when we are preoccupied with previous conversations or unfinished tasks.
3. Ask Probing for Progress Questions
Many sales professionals forget to ask probing questions and then listening for ways to show how they can be progress for the other person.
In the medical profession, it is known that prescription without diagnosis is malpractice. The same is true for Freshway Foods Sales Professionals. We must ask a variety of open-ended questions to diagnose the situation, so our recommendation (prescription) will meet the need.
“The wise man is not the one who gives you the right answers,but the right questions.”-- Claude Levi-Strauss
The most powerful way to uncover how we can ‘be progress’ for prospects, distributors, brokers, and customers is to ask open-ended questions. These questions commonly include the basics of:
Do not ask questions in rapid-fire succession. This is not a Dragnet interrogation or a time for cross-examination. Nor is it a time to relive your glory days on the debate team. Avoid asking questions that are manipulative, hostile, confrontational, or insulting. Every question you ask makes a statement about you and Freshway Foods. Only ask questions that show you are competent and that you care. Be interested. It makes no sense to ask questions if you are not interested in the answers.
“Good questions are far more difficult than good answers.”-- Persian Proverb
4. Take ‘Listening for Progress Notes’
It is a mistake to totally trust our memory with data that may be important to progress.
Here are the ABCs Taking ‘Listening for Progress Notes’:
- Write notes in words and phrases rather than complete thoughts because our listening ability is impaired while we are writing. Remember -- we cannot EFFECTIVELY do two things at the same time.
- Read notes as soon as possible to make sure you understand what you’ve put down on paper and to fill in the blanks.
- Review these notes before the next contact with the customer.
5. Restate in Own Words
Repeating back (as clarifying questions or tentative statements) what we think we’ve heard the other person say helps avoid mind-misreading errors. Good clarifying questions also offer the person a chance to rephrase their thoughts and say precisely what they mean.
6. Pause for Progress
This is a little different, but give it a whirl -- Look directly at the person (or close your eyes when on the phone – except when driving) and when the contact stops speaking, count to two (in your mind!) before you speak.
Committing to this brief pause:
- helps you avoid interrupting the other person, who may have only paused to gather his or her thoughts.
- establishes that what has just been shared was worth contemplation.
- gives your brain time to digest the information and ask a good clarifying question or make a comment.
7. Four and No More
Discipline yourself to uttering no more than four sentences in a row without stopping. This ensures that others will have the opportunity to express themselves.
Two ears, one mouth. You know the saying.
Go Freshway Foods.
Dean Lindsay is a sought after speaker and the author of two popular business books, The Progress Challenge: Working and Winning in a World of Change and Cracking the Networking CODE: 4 Steps to Priceless Business Relationships.