5 Pointers to Become Listening STARS

Over the last few years I’ve conducted quite a few workshops on different sales skills. The workshops are designed to get people to practice the various skills they learn in our online training environment. One of my workshops focuses on active listening skills. In this post I’ll share five pointers from that workshop to help you become listening “STARS.”

What I’ll share are not principles of influence but they impact influence because if you’re not a good listener then your best attempts at persuasion will probably fail. Listening is
important because it helps you learn about the other person, hone in on similarities, and build on the liking principle. Listening is also vital when it comes to the principle of consistency because only when you hear someone can you tap back into their words and ethically engage consistency.

Listening is an active skill so you need to do several things if you want to excel. Unlike some skills, listening skills are all things you can do. For example, I often tell workshop attendees I can’t dunk a basketball. Never could and it’s not likely at 48 years old, standing just 5’9 tall, that I ever will. It’s a skill I don’t possess and can’t acquire no matter how hard I work at it. If someone told me my career depended on dunking a basketball I’d start looking for a new career. But not so with listening skills! Each of the five pointers I’ll share is within your capabilities if you’ll
simply make the choice to employ them.

To be listening STARS, you need to remember Stop, Tone, Ask, Restate and Scribble. We’ll take a brief look at each of these.

Stop – First thing you need to do when communicating with another person is stop everything else you’re doing so you can give them your full attention. People who think they can multi-task are fooling themselves. Scientific studies show people who try to multi-task end up taking longer to do both tasks and are more prone to errors. My own personal experiment, which I’ll share at the end of this article, verifies this.
Tone – A person’s tone of voice is important for a couple of reasons. First, it indicates mood. You can usually tell by the tone of voice whether someone is happy, sad, angry, stressed, relaxed, etc. The other reason tone is important is because it gives more meaning to the communication. For example, the sentence, “I can’t believe you did that,” can mean many different things depending on the word or words the speaker emphasizes.
Ask – Make sure you ask good questions. This helps clarify the message the other person is trying to deliver. It’s also a great way for you to find out things you think are relevant to the discussion, even if the other person doesn’t think they’re important.
Restate – It’s not enough to think you know, or think you understand what the other person said; you need to verify you’re on the same page. Restating what you think you heard, and then putting the message in your own words is a quick, easy way to make sure you fully understand the message as it was intended.
Scribble – Take notes. Remember, note taking isn’t to write a novel, it’s to capture key points and key words to jar your memory as you recall the conversation. Too often I see people take the focus off of the speaker because they get so intent on writing as much as they can but in the end they miss a lot because this is a form of multi-tasking.
Let me share this about multi-tasking. During the listening workshops I read a short, one-page story to each class. As I read I have one-third of the class just sit back and listen, another one-third takes notes, and the rest of the people are distracted as they try to connect scrambled numbers from 1 to 72 while listening to the story. After I finish I give a 10 question quiz to everyone. Having done this with nearly 200 people what I found was those who took notes got about 60% more questions correct than the distracted group who were busy connecting numbers while trying to listen. Those who just sat back and actively listened got nearly 75% more questions right than the distracted group. Wow!
Two learning points come out of this exercise. First, as mentioned above, if you take notes, be brief so it doesn’t become a distraction. Second, and more importantly, stop whatever you’re
doing and give your full attention to the person speaking. That means put away your cell phone when you’re in a meeting or conference. You can say all you want that you can do both but you will miss more of the message because odds are, you’re probably not the statistical anomaly who breaks the mold.
So let me ask this – what would it do for you if you caught 60% to 70% more of a prospect or customer’s message than your competitors? I’d imagine it would do a lot for sales and service. To wrap things up, if you want to be master persuaders then make sure you’re listening STARS. Make the choice to follow the five simple steps I’ve outlined above and you’ll be on the path to becoming a much better listener.

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

4 replies
  1. Leola
    Leola says:

    If you want to be heard, then learn to listen first! Everyone can and knows how to listen, but not everyone is a good listener. Sales does not only mean you have to do the talking and building up your service, but rather it should be the other way around, lend your ears first and reach out to your customer. Good customer service is what separates successful companies from the rest.

  2. Janine
    Janine says:

    Great information here, Brian. In both of the coaching classes I teach, listening for understanding is the # 1 area that students want / need to work on…and it's been that way for the 10 years I've taught the classes. So critical, yet so difficult without an awareness that sticks.


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