Guest blog: Why B2B Marketers need to talk less and listen more
Suzy Smith, Vice President, Outlook Marketing Services
Have you ever attended a meeting, either in person or via conference call, and quickly realised too many people are involved because there’s constant talking over one another, awkward interruptions and cringe-worthy silent pauses?
Yeah…those meetings are never fun, or very productive. Bringing people together and giving everyone a voice is certainly important, but does it sometimes come to the detriment of workplace efficiency? Active, purposeful listening in the business world can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. If we simply listened more and talked less, could we streamline meetings, and better yet, improve client relationships?
I think so, but actively listening in a world where you’re constantly bombarded with information isn’t easy. It definitely takes some effort, but with a little bit of practice, these five tips can help you become a better, more active listener.
1. Paraphrase. The act of paraphrasing is quite powerful because it conveys and confirms your understanding of the message. When you actively listen to someone, you’re able to understand what they said and say it back to them in your own words to achieve mutual understanding. In addition, addressing an individual by name gets their attention and focus while showing respect and inclusion in the conversation – thus helping boost engagement and clear communication.
2. Never pass up the chance to ask for clarification. Sometimes there’s a bad connection, or you get distracted by a new email appearing in your Inbox and miss a key point. You don’t want that to snowball into extra work or worse, losing credibility with a client or peer. Save yourself the trouble and ask the speaker to repeat themselves for clarity.
3. Stop game-planning your response. If you’re consumed with what you’re going to say next, then you can’t also be listening well. Keep your focus directly upon the speaker. Pause before you speak so the speaker-now-turned-listener has the chance to transition into actively listening of you. This can help foster real learning and business progress.
4. Nonverbal cues matter. In person, you can make eye contact and lean toward the speaker. On the phone, you can display nonverbal behaviours – such as “uh-huh” and “ok” utterances – to indicate you’re listening and engaged in the conversation.
5. Keep it short and sweet. Making your responses or statements 60 seconds or less will help encourage a more streamlined conversation. Wouldn’t you prefer a well thought out answer that is clear and succinct versus a long-winded, hard to follow response that probably doesn’t make sense or is redundant and therefore a waste of time? I know I would. Don’t keep your audience hostage. Keeping it short and sweet means your audience stays engaged and listening to you.
Is it time for a reality check on your listening skills? One way to find out is if you find yourself consistently being the dominant speaker at meetings. If so, it’s probably time to talk less and listen more. I hope these tips help remind you that listening is powerful – especially in business when it comes to fostering efficiency, improving communication and cultivating stronger relationships.