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The Sales Shrink: Why We Lose 75% of What We Hear and What We Can Do About It

by Tina Cherpes, Featured Contributor

Pick Up Your Shoes Max…

PAM was finally able to see the humor in it “For a while I just said everything twice; it’d go something like ‘Pick up your shoes Max, pick up your shoes Max’; I figured since I was going to have to say it twice anyway, it was easier just to get it over with”.

sales shrinkExperts recognize that even the best listeners have a whopping 25% listening efficiency.  Which means even if we consider ourselves good listeners, we’re still losing about 75% of the information we hear.

Listening is a highly selective and subjective process; we often discard information that conflicts with our present framework of ideas, values, and/or tasks at hand.  Our ability to effectively listen can be further challenged by physiological issues (hunger/fatigue), psychological issues (emotional/personal), environmental issues (noise), and physical issues (work space). Throw a few of our listening filters into the mix (assumptions, past experiences, anxieties, prejudices, expectations) either about the speaker or the message; pepper the formula with the wide-range of individual meanings we assign to words themselves and it’s no wonder experts label 25% listening effectiveness as best in show.

If our goal is to improve our active listening skills, it may make sense to start with an exploration of the basics.  We’ll begin with the fundamental don’ts: don’t rush into giving advice; don’t change the subject; interrupt; cross-examine; sermonize, or moralize. These are all attributes of poor listening skills we can intentionally learn to avoid.

The active listening starter kit would include the following list: minimize distractions (stop sending/viewing text messages, mute the TV/stereo, take a cough drop); temporarily suspend personal opinions (politics, religion, sex, money, work); acknowledge the speaker (at the podium, in the conference room, or sprawled out on the couch); use your body (make eye contact, lean forward, sit up straight, control your face); ask clarifying questions in an effort to understand the message (could you elaborate on what you mean by CRM and ROI?).

Active listening means we’re engaged in the process; we’re plugged in; we’re deliberately and intentionally participating.  When Pam understood (statistically speaking) she would likely need to repeat herself 4-5 times before her son would get the message, she changed strategies and became intentional.  She either muted the TV or stood in front of it; made eye contact with her son then patiently waited for him to reciprocate; followed each message with “Would you tell me what you think you just heard me say?”.  And, as Pam learned to minimize distractions, temporarily suspend her personal opinions, use her body, acknowledge the speaker, and ask clarifying questions; she knew improvement was inevitable.


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