How Listening Leads to More Business

Listening may be one of the most important skills you can have when it comes to leadership and running a business.
There are many reasons we listen. We listen to; learn, stay informed, understand, gain information, acquire knowledge, and obtain wisdom.
While there are many benefits to great listening, sadly most of us are in fact terrible at it. Research suggests that we remember only 25 to 50 percent of what we hear.
With that being said, learning to be a good listener has significant benefits for business leaders. It helps you build critical relationships with clients, bond with customers, and engage with employees.
In turn, this builds trust and confidence. That trust encourages loyalty, and that confidence motivates productivity. Both of these things leads to more business and more profitability.

Now, here are seven ways you can become a better listener:
1. Keep your mind clear.
When you listen, actually listen! Clear your mind; stop thinking of your beliefs and positions and what you’re going to say next. Be ready to truly hear what the other person is saying so you can benefit from their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. After you hear what they say, then think about what you will say.

2. Context is key.
To truly listen, you must pay attention to what is being said beneath the words. Listen for the essence of what is being said. Look beyond the surface. Make an effort to hear the words that the other person is saying, and, more importantly, to understand the complete message that is being conveyed. Give your full, undivided attention to the speaker at every level. Aim to understand the context of the words, instead of just the words themselves.

3. Don’t get distracted.
Resist the natural urge to be distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Don’t let your mind wander so that you lose focus. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.

4. Stay open.
A very important part of listening is the ability to set aside one’s own prejudices in order to step into the shoes of another. Learn to silence your personal thoughts and opinions in such a way that you can address the needs of other people directly. Practice showing empathy.

5. Use your body.
Body language isn’t only important when speaking, but also when listening. Look directly at the speaker, lean in, and be interested. Listen and learn. Watch your body language and watch the body language of the person speaking. Use smiles, nods, and gestures to signal your engagement and connection.

6. Don’t interrupt.
Resist the urge to interrupt; it frustrates the speaker and derails the point being made. Allow the speaker to finish his or her thought before jumping in to ask questions. Don’t interrupt with counter arguments or to add your own ideas. When you listen, you listen; when you speak, you speak. There is a time for everything.

7. Respond.
When the speaker has finished talking and it’s your turn to speak, be open, inquisitive, and honest with your response. Assert your opinions, ask the right questions, and do it all with great respect. Treat the other person as you would want to be treated.

Listening is an acquired skill. It takes a lot of determination and concentration. But if done right, it will help you become a better communicator and develop stronger relationships–important elements of success in any field. For leaders, listening is a central competence for success. For business, listening is a competitive advantage.

Why You Should Never Eat Alone

If there is one phrase that you should live by in business it is that which is the title of Keith Ferrozzi book; “Never Eat Alone.” The idea of this phrase is simple, the truth is that actual relationships with people are a big key to success. People hire, buy from, and give money to people and businesses that they like. Knowing this it is important to build mutually beneficial relationships with others.

So how do you build a mutually beneficial relationship with a stranger? If you do something to make someone else more successful, they’re more likely to value your relationship with them, and the more relationships you have with value in them, the more valuable you become, not only to yourself, but to the world: your employers, your clients, and so on. To put this into practice, try and give everyone you meet 51% of the value of a relationship. You will easily see how successful you will become living off of the 49%.

When giving someone 51% of the value of a relationship, it is important that you don’t keep score. If someone calls you up and asks for a favor that you can easily accomplish, make it so and don’t look back. Relationships are not finite things that are a straight-up exchange of one thing for another – they are living, breathing things. If you are going to take the time to connect with somebody, you should be willing to try to make that person successful. If they succeed, you succeed – it’s that simple.

The main idea here is that you should begin reaching out to others and building your network of contacts before you need anything from them. If you start networking just as your job is about to die, or your company needs funding, it’s too late. Get out there and network, join community groups that interest you, take leadership positions in hobby groups that interest you, enroll in a local community college class on the topic of interest, or try to become involved with an approved work project that enables you to come into contact with more people. Then, as you’re exposed to more people, gravitate towards the ones who are involved with things that you want to be doing

Here are some rules to live by to make sure you are networking right:

  1. Don’t schmooze: have something to say, say it with meaning, and focus on establishing a few good connections than spending your time surfing the room.
  2. Don’t rely on gossip because it paints a picture of untrustworthiness.
  3. Be willing to give something away – bloggers who give away content to their readers.
  4. Don’t treat those under you poorly, ever.
  5. Be transparent – if you want to meet someone and are happy to meet them, say so.
  6. Don’t be too efficient – make genuine, individual connections. If you’re going to take the time to touch base with a contact, write to that person individually, don’t just include them on a big ol’ email to hundreds of people at once that starts off with “Dear friend!”

No successful person is completely self-made, everyone needs help from each other.