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Leadership perspective
Listen better. Sell more.
Dave Thesing, CFO, IFC National Marketing

Once you’ve secured that all-important first meeting with a potential client, make the most of it and increase your chances of closing the sale by listening more effectively to what your prospects are saying. Many agree that listening effectively is an important skill, but while most people feel that they communicate effectively, research has shown that the average person listens at only about 25 percent efficiency.

So, what can you do to become a more effective listener and grow your business? Start by listening with more than just your ears. For a good foundation, evaluate all aspects of listening and the concepts of how people communicate. According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian 55 percent of communication is nonverbal, such as body language; 38 percent is verbal through tone – including pace and volume; and 7 percent is done through words.

Listening with more than your ears requires learning to read non-verbal cues. You need to focus not just on what you want to say to a prospect, but how they are responding to your message. With this in mind, be aware of body language, including:

  • Facial expressions: Look for frowning or raising of the brow line, blank stares, squinting eyes or frustration, versus a simple smile and consistent eye contact.
  • Posture: Changes in posture, such as leaning away, crossed arms or constant shifting in seat can convey a level of discomfort or indifference. Slouching can signify disinterest and stiff or rigid posture can indicate that someone doesn’t feel comfortable in your presence. Meanwhile, an alert or erect posture with the head slightly forward and nodding, along with hands and arms that are relaxed and held at shoulder width or wider and with the palms facing up can indicate interest and eagerness to engage in conversation.
  • Eye contact: If a client or prospect is avoiding eye contact or constantly darting and shifting his or her eyes off to blank space, this can signal a lack of interest, untrustworthiness, or insecurity. Angry and negative moods can cause a person’s pupils to contract. However, when a person is receptive to the conversation, their eyes will often dilate to 3 or 4 times their normal size. Very often they will also slightly raise their eyebrows. If they like you and are interested in what you have to say they will meet your gaze from 60 to 70 percent of the time.

Learning to read body language is a skill, and like any other skill you can improve it with practice. Take 10 to 15 minutes each day to study the body language and verbal cues of the people around you. You can do this in business meetings, on sales calls, at social functions, at restaurants or airports, or while watching television with the sound off.

When you can consistently put all these tips and best practices together, you will begin to convert more calls and build better relationships with clients. Remember: listen, be interested, be interesting, and close by scheduling a follow-up meeting now.  Seize the moment and you can capture more sales.