You Know HOW to Do This, But How Well DO You?

in Listening

In an interview with a senior HR director at a large firm, he lamented that although he had plenty of jobs to fill, his main issue was with the general lack of “soft skills” by applicants.

These include using proper English, common courtesies: “please” and “thank  you,” having their pants pulled up (I’m not making this up) and listening and following instructions.

I especially have a problem with the not listening.

Since I’m traveling frequently I have more encounters with service and hospitality people than the norm. I have some great experiences with those who really care and excel at what they do, regardless of their position and pay level—Ann, the flight attendant on USAir yesterday was outstanding—and others, not so much.

  • I’ll emphasize sauce on the side for wings. They often come with the sauce on.
  • I’ll ask for a vodka soda with a lemon. It usually comes with a lime.
  • The grocery clerk asking, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” and then not listening to the answer. Or as happens at least once every 10 trips (I grocery shop almost every day I’m home) asking a second time, forgetting they already asked.
  • The server, as he/she rushes by, just as the food hits the table, robotically asking “How is everything so far?” It is a good question; the timing needs to be right.

Oh, I know, there are some people right now reading this who are fuming, coming to the defense of service people, saying it’s not their  fault, they are paid low wages, lots of customers are jerks, etc.

Save it.

Yes it IS their fault.

I’ve been there… I’ve washed dishes, bussed tables, cleaned office toilets, delivered flowers, mowed lawns… I didn’t love to do those things, but I CHOSE to do those things at that time in my life. I worked hard at them and dealt with the occasional idiot.

Ultimately I realized I could trade my time and talents, deliver the most value, and make the most money—plus sit inside and not get dirty–by talking to people and selling.  (That didn’t insulate me from the small minority of jerks. We must deal with them).

And I decided to do whatever it took to become excellent at it. The more I learned and practiced, and the harder I worked, the more I got paid. Funny how that happens.

If someone chooses a job, they have contracted and agreed to provide the stated value for what the employer is paying.

I remember a quote from Brian Tracy when I was just starting in business over 30 years ago (I’m paraphrasing a bit):

“When you are doing anything, why not do it to 100% of your ability, and with excellence?”

Everyone has that choice every day. And we all do make a choice at different levels on the scale.

For us in sales, let’s circle back to the listening part. This is the easiest to master from a technical perspective, but perhaps the most difficult to execute for many.

The problem isn’t with knowing how to listen.

Everyone knows how. It’s the why.

When I cover listening in my training workshops, I go through the Two P’s of listening: purpose and pause.

The purpose is having a reason for listening.

And for those who right now are saying, “Yeah, but I can’t even get to people to even have a chance to listen to them,” the reason why, and the problem usually also is purpose.

The salesperson has “Me-itis,” making his messaging about him and not about the prospect. Of course people don’t want to talk to him.

Instead, when you have an other-focused purpose, your attitude, approach, messaging and desire to listen takes on a different tone.

As do your results.

The Pause is simply that. Silence.

Pause at two points in the question asking and answering process. Pause after you ask a question. Pause after they answer. You might be amazed at what you can learn.

So, there’s my contribution to soft skills training that can and does produce hard results, and cash.

Go and make this your most excellent week ever!



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tammy August 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm

This is so true. That pause feels awkward at first, but it feels like it needs to be filled. If you wait it out often whoever you’re talking to will fill the pause. This is when you need to take notes and LISTEN. Also, always remember to give them the option to give you more. I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve listened to a call I made after when we’re reviewing things and realized after “I wish I had just shut up there” instead of saying something. Sometimes you can just say something as simple as “oh?” “or tell me more” or “what else?” to get more out of someone.

One of our managers uses what else with a LOT of great effects in meetings. Think about it. You say something in a meeting, and your boss looks at you and asks “what else?”. Don’t you suddenly feel like you need to give more? I know I do!


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