Wednesday, December 19, 2007/
Getting people to listen to you can be easier if you follow these prompts…
When I arrived back in Australia from London with a healthy bank account, lots of experiences and a ton of enthusiasm to start something new, I was wasn’t prepared for the reaction I got – or my response to it.
I truly believed that I would be able to hit the ground running. Yes it would take a while (I figured a year) to establish myself. I’d set up my business, have a few children, ease myself in and then off I’d stride. Well, reality certainly has a way of smacking you in the face.
Once I had worked out my business plan, target market, website etc, I started knocking on doors. I went to meeting after meeting and seemed to be getting hit and miss results.
I didn’t really understand this at first. I gathered a lot of evidence to support numerous reasons of what was occurring and of course I could always fall back on blaming the Australian market and the fact that I had no business contacts here. Excuses are a great place to hide!
The tipping point came when I went to a meeting with a company and the lady I met with leaned towards me and said: “Well Pollyanna that sounds great; now when you have some Melbourne experience why don’t you come back to me.”
I could barley contain the frustration I felt at the time (maybe being eight months pregnant didn’t help). I managed a smile and thanked her for her time and left the building.
When I got home my partner Sean got the full story, again and again and again. Finally I blurted out, “doesn’t she know who I am, what I have achieved?”. Sean calmly replied: “No she doesn’t, and she probably doesn’t care about your business experience in London.” Well, I had some opinions about that at first, and then I started to look at the pattern of the past few months. Here’s what I noticed:
- I was going to each meeting in an unproductive perspective, I was expecting resistance, so that’s what I got.
- In my eagerness I wasn’t listening at a deeper more intuitive level, I wasn’t picking up what was not being said.
- I missed the client’s point of resistance and therefore didn’t name it or address it.
- I was focused on what I had achieved rather than how I could support them.
I needed to change my approach and maybe even get my ego out of the equation.
I had a meeting coming up with a large corporate company so I created a structure to help me get the outcome I wanted. I would like to share that with you. I prepared by:
- Being conscious of the perspective I wanted to be in for the meeting (the perspective you are in is where you will create from).
- Getting very clear about the outcome I wanted.
- Asking short open questions and really listening to the answers.
- Being very clear about what I wanted to communicate.
- Identifying and naming the point of resistance – what was unsaid, what was the atmosphere in the room?
I went along to the meeting feeling prepared; I was told before that I had half an hour only to talk about what we did. As I sat in reception and the minutes ticked away – 5, 10, 15 – I struggled to keep hold of the perspective I had chosen. I needed a new one and fast.
For some absurd reason the Flash Gordon movie came into my mind, and the phrase “we only have 10 minutes to save the universe” or something like that. So I chose that perspective, the Flash Gordon perspective.
The people I was meeting arrived in reception, apologised for being late and explained that we still needed to finish our meeting on the half hour. With the image of Flash Gordon still in my mind I laughed and said “Great, we have 15 minutes to save the universe.”
What I said at that point was irrelevant, what was important was the energy and emotion with the greeting. By being light and laughing I wasn’t making them wrong for being late. A light fun atmosphere is where we created our meeting from.
The meeting went well; great people who were under a lot of pressure. As my 15 minutes drew to a close I could see their eyes start to glaze over and I checked in with the atmosphere. What was beneath the surface? What was unsaid?
It was uncertainty. Trusting my intuition I named the point of resistance. “I hear that you like what I am saying and I detect some uncertainty.” They looked relieved. I had named the point of resistance and they were able to share their concerns.
They didn’t know me. Perfectly reasonable and understandable. This I could work with. From there we designed a way for them to experience what I did in safe way. That didn’t propose a risk for them. The rest, as they say, is history. I now have a great ongoing relationship with that company.
This experience was a great reminder to:
- Go back to basics.
- Get rid of ego.
- To listen for the point of resistance and to name it.
- Remember the importance of being prepared.
- Consciously choose the perspective that will be the most productive (you will be in a perspective, is it the one that will serve you the best).
- To listen at a deeper level.
There are three levels of listening and we need to use all three when meeting with prospective clients (and anyone else).
Level one: Internal listening
When a person listens at level one, they are actually listening to the sound of their own inner voice. That’s where their attention is. They may hear the words of the other person, but they are primarily aware of their own opinions, stories, judgements, feelings and needs.
They may be nodding, seeming agreeing with the occasional “yes”, but inside their self talk is saying things like:
- I had an experience just like that.
- This is starting to bore me.
- I really need to get home, what am I going to have for dinner.
- I’m terrified I’ll say the wrong thing and look stupid.
There are times in our lives when it’s perfectly normal and important for us to pay close attention to our own needs and opinions, when it’s essential that we listen at level one. For example, when a contractor is asking you how you want your kitchen remodelled; that’s a situation that is 100% about what you want; your opinions, judgements and desires.
When someone is being coached, it’s essential that the client is in level one. The attention is fully on them, their lives, what they want, where they are and where they are headed.
Level two: Focused listening
At level two there is a hard focus, like a laser from yourself to the person you are listening to. All of the attention is directed in one way.
Think of a mother with a sick baby; all of her attention is focused on the child. There might be chaos all around her, but the mother stays focused on the child and the child’s needs.
Another example is two lovers in a restaurant; they’re both completely focused on the other person, they can be oblivious to the world around them. They are two people completely at level two, listening intently to every word and “listening” for every nuance in the conversation. In order for us to listen as effectively as possible it is important to be at level two.
Level three: Global listening
This is the soft focus listening that takes in everything. At level three you are aware of the energy between you and others. You are also aware of how that energy is changing.
You detect sadness, lightness, and shifts in attitude. You are aware of the environment and whatever is going on in the environment. There is a way you are conscious of underlying mood, tone, or the impact of the conversation – where it is taking you and the person you are talking to.
Stand up comedians have a highly developed sense of listening at level three. They know when their humour is landing and when it isn’t. Performers in general have highly developed antennae tuned to the level three in a room; a sense of how the performance is being received, how the energy is building or dissipating.
This is also the level at which your intuition will be most available to you as well as metaphor and imagery. Level three is often described as “soft focus” listening that gives the ability to pick up as much information as possible about the underlying impact in the moment.
What is your strategy for new client meetings? Would you benefit from revising your strategy and including some of the above? If the answer is yes, allocate some time in your diary now to do so.
Levels of listening has been adapted from Co-Active Coaching, New skills for coaching people toward success in work and life by Laura Whitworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House and Phillip Sandahl.
Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. She is an experienced facilitator, certified coach and a certified practitioner of NLP. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). This blog is about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round. For more information go to www.perspectivescoaching.com.au
For more Second Time Around, click here.
Leslie Vere writes: Thank you so much for sharing this experience. I am currently going through this phase in trying to sell my service and am now making changes in the way I present myself. As it is the festive period should I wait for the new year before I make the rounds again? I do not have the financial backing to do up brochures or leaflets. Should I worry too much about this?