1. RECEIVING INFORMATION When you receive information you are engaging in a passive behavior – making it difficult to maintain your concentration. As a result, it is easy to become distracted when you are receiving information. If you let your mind wander during this phase, how- ever, the next steps in the process will be based on faulty information. There are four ways you can improve your receptive accuracy: • Maintain eye contact with your speaker

• Concentrate on the speaker, not on your response

• Take notes • Eliminate background noise Concentrating 100% on the speaker

and referring back to your notes will help you recall your own questions or concerns.

2. INTERPRETING INFORMATION Interpreting information involves analyzing and drawing conclusions, and is an active stage of strategic listening. The obvious place to begin this process is with a brief analysis of your speaker. You can begin this step before you even meet the person. Answer these questions and think along similar lines: Where does your speaker come

from geographically? The geo- graphic origin of the speaker – as well as the speaker’s age, sex, ethnicity, religion and educational level – can all influence his or her choice of words

SELLING TIP How to Create Confidence

1. The Success Habit. Confidence is built on success, so give your people horses they can ride. Especially when dealing with new reps, assign them tasks they can master. Build in them the habit of being successful – starting small with small successes. Involve your people in the decision- making process. Without delegating away any of your supervisory responsibilities, allow your salespeople to have some major input into matters that affect them. 2. The Evils of Perfectionism. By insisting on per-

as well as the meaning intended for those words. Accurate interpretation depends on a subtle sense of who your speaker is. What is the primary goal of the conversation? Is it information gather- ing, negotiating, a get-acquainted ses- sion? The ultimate goal of the conversa- tion influences the meaning of words.

3. STORING INFORMATION Mentally store the information where you can retrieve it quickly and accu- rately, at any point in the future. An effective mental storage system can make your career in sales extremely successful.

I use a system I call my “mental Rolodex.” I actually visualize 3" x 5" index cards with words and notes written on them stored in my brain. Visualization is a commonly used technique. Many high achievers sing its praises and use it automatically to spur themselves to higher success. The cards in my mental file often have the same notes on them that I have taken during the actual conver- sation. If I am unable to take notes during the conversation, as I listen I visualize storing information in my mental Rolodex. Like a computer, I can cross-reference these cards on any bit of information.

Everyone uses a form of mental storage, yet few of us examine the pattern we have established – much less improve on it.

4. PROVIDING FEEDBACK Feedback doesn’t always occur at the end of the conversation. Although these should be kept to a minimum, you will find yourself interjecting com- ments during the conversation. Feed- back is your opportunity to execute your strategic listening skills. If you have taken notes, this stage is not very difficult; if not, you will still be able to rely on your mental stor- age system. An opening statement that precedes your feedback sets the stage (e.g., “As you have explained, the major points in this negotiation are...” or, “I appreciate the time you have taken to explain your require- ments. Let me review some of the key issues you have expressed”). This opening statement eases you into the conversation. It’s a way to get your lis- tener’s attention by using key phrases, industry jargon, or other terms your speaker has used. Incorporating these into your response will give the speaker the feeling that you have listened well – and, in fact, you have. Using your prospect’s name as often as possible during your portion of the conversation will also draw his or her attention to what you are saying. As you can see, strategic listening is a logical process. Its components – receiving, interpreting, storing, and feedback – are skills you can improve with practice. Improve your listening skills and you will be improving your selling skills while you are improving sales results. 

fection, sales managers may be defeating their own purpose. Some people may become so self-conscious about making a mistake that they slow their perfor- mance to a crawl to make certain they don’t screw up. As a result, productivity goes way down. 3. Managers’ Decision-Making Problems. Managers often have trouble making decisions. First, they’re not certain they have all the information necessary to make a decision; second, they’re afraid of making a mistake and dread the consequences. You can get into more management difficulty by repeatedly refusing to make decisions (or by delaying unreasonably) than you can by occasionally making an incorrect decision.


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