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Listen to This

Mar 21, 2008
"It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Persuading powerfully has many ingredients -- being flexible, really understanding criteria and core values, and one of the most important persuasion activities is being a good listener. Some people are naturals at this, others need practice, and plenty of it. If your goal is to become the best persuader you can be, sharpening your listening skills is mandatory.

Listening is not formulating your answers or arguments while someone else is talking. Listening involves both verbal and non-verbal communication (such as eye contact, sometimes head nodding or smiling). Listening is remembering and empathizing. Listening is speaking back to the person, in your own words, what they just conveyed to you. And being a good listener requires your participation in terms of asking pertinent follow up questions.

When we elicit our prospect's and client's criteria, we are preparing ourselves to listen. For example, we ask the question, "What will having X do for you?" This prepares us to hear exactly what we need to hear to unlock their deep core values and criteria. What happens if we're off in our thoughts, daydreaming or distracted by what we might want to say to them? Well, we miss an opportunity to really understand how the product or service equates with their core value.

By paraphrasing what we have heard them say once we ask the criteria elicitation questions, we are conveying to them that we have really heard them. "So what you're telling me is that you're looking for X" or "It seems to me that you are interested in Y". We are showing our interest in what drives them and by expressing our understanding, we are also building trust with them.

When you take it to a higher level, you can respond to your prospect with the auditory, kinesthetic or visual representational system which they are using. If they're very visual, you can say to them, "I see that having a new house will brighten your future and give you a greater vision of the life you've already imaged for yourself".

One of my favorite tools to use along these same lines, is silence. Wow. Talk about powerful. Many people are highly uncomfortable with silence and will do their darnedest to fill it up. As persuaders, we can use this to our advantage. The more information we have about our prospect's wants and needs, the more we can combine these wants and needs with our products and services.

Another very important aspect of listening is knowing how to respond with empathy. We all have wildly different experiences in life and sometimes it's hard to know how to relate to other people, but keep in mind, that despite our differences, we are all fundamentally driven by the same things. . . the core drives. We've all experienced loss, joy, frustration, enthusiasm. . . and on some level, we can connect with another's experience.

Listening is something that you can learn through practice and persistence.
About the Author
Kenrick Cleveland teaches techniques to earn the business of affluent prospects using persuasion. He runs public and private seminars and offers home study courses and coaching programs in persuasion techniques.
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