The Three Stages of Listening You Can Use to Engage Your Prospect

BY Kathy Crosett
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It’s not completely your fault. But, it is something you should take care of. I'm writing about the art of listening and how sales reps can improve their results by using the three stages of listening. 

But what about your audience? While you're having a great time telling your prospect about the tailgating party you had over the weekend, they may be deciding that you're not someone they want to do business with.

At Harvard University’s Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to find out why humans are so motivated to talk about themselves. Their brain scans showed that activity increased in three specific regions when people spoke about themselves. These regions are linked to feelings of contentment and pleasure. As humans we're programmed to engage in behavior that feels good. And this tendency extends to our conversations. In other words, when we talk about ourselves, we feel as good as we do after eating our favorite meal. 

As Lydia Dishman reports in her recent Fast Company article, “staying quiet half the time, is a tough, but influential, tool for business.” In your sales meetings, your mission is to discover whether the prospect will be a potential client. To do that, you must listen to the prospect's needs and business problems. You can’t succeed if you’re too busy talking.

One strategy to maintain the proper 50–50 ratio of talking and listening in a conversation is to be aware of the “three stages of speaking with people.” Mark Goulston, a business psychiatrist, recommends using this strategy in business conversations. 

In the first stage, which lasts perhaps 20 seconds, make sure your statements are relevant to keep your prospect intrigued. During the next 20 seconds, your listener can start to lose interest if you don’t stop talking and ask a question. If you continue to talk without breaking for another 40 seconds, you’re in trouble. Your prospect is looking at their watch or their phone and wondering how quickly they can show you the exit.

Don't let your failure to stop talking sink your chances of winning new business. Practice active listening on your friends and co-​workers. Once you've perfected the technique, use it on clients and prospects.