Listening Makes for Great Sales and Customer Service

We've all been irked by poor customer service or salespeople who act as though they'd rather be anywhere but on the job. You know, the people who treat us -- the customer or client -- like they're doing us a favor by taking our orders or ringing up our sales. They show little or no appreciation for us. All they want is our patronage… and our money.

Steve Kehela, president of ImprovForExcellence.com, sees those folks as his greatest challenge. So he's built a business on breaking their bad communication skills.

Kehela conducts customized workshops designed to help companies increase sales and improve their productivity by perfecting their employees' listening skills. Inevitably, he says, at the end of these popular sessions, every participant recognizes that his or her willingness to listen to others needs dramatic improvement, and they're all eager to make changes to modify their behavior.

And it's not just those people who could use some help. All of us are probably guilty of brushing off pretty much anyone and everyone who doesn't excite us.

"Be honest. How often would you say that you begin to tune out during a conversation once you've decided that you know where the person is headed?" asks Kehela. "I bet it's quite often."

Kehela says it's a dangerous habit because when we tune people out we miss important information -- information that might be the difference between people feeling that they were really being heard… or left assuming you weren't really listening at all.

The danger, he says, of always being in a rush and not being polite and patient enough to hear someone out can range from souring relationships to losing business. When a car salesman or a sales clerk fails to listen to what you want, and instead tries to push what he or she wants to sell, most of us walk away without opening our wallets. Similarly, we end friendships when we believe that the other party doesn't hear what we have to say.

Kehela says one simple solution is to wait for the other person to finish his entire statement before you begin to formulate your response. This doesn't just mean waiting to speak until he's stopped. It means not even thinking about what you want to blurt out until he's finished. Then take a second or two to reflect and respond.

It's good advice, and I'm going to consciously focus on doing just that.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor for "Good Morning America" and the CEO of WomenForHire.com.

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