Influencing Without Authority: Being a Good Listener

We are born with one mouth and two ears – a good salesperson uses them in that proportion. If you are doing all the talking, do not be surprised if people do not adopt your ideas.

So what to do?

Consider this:

· Learn to really listen to people. The official name for the skill is “active listening” which does not mean parroting everything you hear. What it does mean is that you explore the hot buttons of others by asking probing, open-ended questions; that you park your judgments safely away; and that you watch for non-verbal cues.

It also means that at some point you state what you have heard in your own words to make sure you have it right and that the other side actually feels heard (nodding does not have the same effect).

· Incorporate what you hear. Persuasion typically requires a number of “kicks at the can”, and each kick needs to be better than the one preceding. You do this by adapting your ‘pitch’ to what you hear.

If they are worried about the investment required, then show how it will lead to a greater return, or find a way that costs less. If they are worried that quality will go down, then show how errors and problems will be caught with your new idea – you get the idea.

Don’t feel the need to respond immediately – sometimes it is better to go away and think about how to incorporate what you have heard before approaching the other party again.

Have a think on how much you actively listen and what you are hearing. Being a good listener and adjusting your ‘pitch’ accordingly will go a long way to helping you close new business or successfully influence others with your ideas or suggestions.

Russel Horwitz, Principal