What’s the sales manager’s basic responsibility? Here are a few examples:
- Develop employee potential
- Achieve cooperation
- Succeed in achieving department and individual goals
There’s one skill that puts massively successful leaders in a category all their own. Frankly, if you master this one skill, you also master many areas of life. That skill is active listening, which Carl Roger defined as “the ability to listen intelligently and carefully to those whom [a person] works.”
What Is Active Listening?
Active listening requires that the listener has an active responsibility, not a passive one. It’s the active listener’s role to grasp the facts and feelings they observe during the conversation in order to help the speaker work through their problems.
The sales manager’s goal is to help employees solve their problems, not to encourage them to lay their problems at their office door. In order to help them do so, it’s imperative that you help sales managers develop active listening skills. There are positive unintended consequences for the sales professionals managed by active listeners:
- It brings change to the employees.
- It brings change in the employees’ attitudes toward themselves and others.
- It brings change in their values.
- The employees feel heard and appreciated.
All of these unintended consequences inspire a more mature, open and cooperating attitude in the employees. But active listening changes the listener, too. Listening builds deeper, positive relationships while slowly changing the attitude of the listener. In essence, listening is a lesson in a personal growth experience.
How to Listen
The sales manager’s first goal is to create a safe conversation climate for employees to freely converse without threat of retaliation. Help them create a climate that is free of criticism and evaluation. The climate must be one of equality and freedom enveloped in understanding and warmth.
When sales managers listen, they must be able to grasp the speaker’s point of view. Teach managers to get inside the speaker’s head to understand their viewpoint, not to prove him or her wrong – to listen for the entire message.
When we speak, we try to get across two points: the content of the message and the feeling or attitude underneath that content. As you might guess, the content and the feelings are equally important.
When listening to a message, the listener should ask himself or herself, “What does this mean to them? How do they view this situation?” They should look for body language signs and voice tones: Does the speaker avert their eyes? Does the speaker’s voice rise higher or lower? Does the speaker fidget? Does their breathing become shallow or deeper? All of these signals start to paint the entire message the speaker is trying to convey, and understanding them takes practice.
Encourage sales managers to test their active listening skills through feedback. In their own words, they should repeat to the speaker what they heard for their own clarification to ensure they understand their message accurately.
Good communication creates better, more cooperative relationships. Encourage your sales managers to practice these tips during their next meeting. It does take practice, so help them practice every time they’re given an opportunity to listen!