Nineteen centuries ago, Epictetus said, “Nature gave men one tongue but two ears that we may hear twice as much as we speak.” Good advice then and good advice today. Eighty percent of salespeople have a false belief that talking is the key skill of their profession.

The top 20 percent know different. They know that listening is much more important. Ask the clients of the top sales performers and you will hear over and over again, this comment: “They listen to me.”

My sales representatives would take me out on sales calls and, before we got to the client’s site, I would turn to my salesperson and ask, “Why are we here?” They would become like a deer in headlights…frozen. Their response would be all over the place, but the bottom line was – they had no specific plan, purpose or outcome. The next observation was their poor listening skills. No question about it, they could talk; but it was difficult to get them to stop. Sometimes, I had to break in to give the client an opportunity to respond to a question or just talk to us, because of our limited time with them.

I always like to have an immediate feedback session with a member of my team after we have met with a client, so I proceed to ask:

  • What did our client just tell us?
  • What did we learn?
  • What could I (you) do better next time?
  • What did I (you) do well?

This becomes an opportunity for coaching and review­ing our next steps. Listening more and talking less becomes a mantra.

In designing the R5 communication model, it became clear that listening with a purpose had to be included, and the metaphor I use is a tape recorder. R2 is record, but are you ready to listen and for what?

Imagine for a moment there was a contest to meet and interview a famous celebrity in business, sports, television, movies, public office, whomever it might be for you. You have just been contacted, informing you that you won!

This famous person, whom you admire, has granted you an interview. How exciting would this be? But it is not over yet, because you will be a guest on Oprah to talk about it. You only have 30 minutes with this person and will not get another chance. Would you just show up? Or would you prepare in advance?

I bet you would do your homework first to find out all you could. You would focus on what questions you would ask and perhaps think about what others might want to know, or what is important to them, or you might come up with a theme.

Would you rehearse and practice the questions or would you just show up, keep your head down, and read from your papers? The big moment has arrived and you make sure to bring your tape recorder to the interview. Why would you do this? So you can recall what was said because you do not want to miss anything important. Why do that? In preparing for the Oprah show, you will again want to prepare.

During the interview, you sit down and place your tape recorder on the table, push play, and record. You ask your insightful questions and, based on the response, you ask other questions. The interview is a success!

Here is what you would not do:

  • Take up most of the 30 minutes with you talking / Interrupt them
  • Answer their questions before they did
  • Pause the tape recorder so you could talk about yourself

Or would you?

Why Don’t We Listen?

According to a study taken at UCLA, people spend 9 percent of their time writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent talking and 45 percent listening.

If listening is so important, how are we taught? Did you learn to listen by being whacked on the back of the head with a ruler by Sister Teresa in grade school? Or did you get some formal training in “How to listen”? If you did, it was not in school. Let’s take a moment to recall what we learned in R1 Rapport with “Common Sense Language.” Remember my client meeting, where he wanted to hear it and I wanted to show him.

What are the Rules for Listening?

We all have ways or processes we go through in helping us in our decision making. These are the rules we use to judge ourselves and others. The interesting thing about our rules is that we are the only ones who know what they are. Are you curious to discover what rules you use? To find out, answer the following question:

  • A – What do you need to do to increase your chances of success in your job?

Now answer this question:

  • B – What does someone else doing the same job need to do to increase their chances of success?

How did you answer the questions? Check the box that applies.

  • A is answered and B is the same. For example: A – Be focused, have goals B – Same, focused and have goals.
  • A has an answer and B does not. For example: A – Be focused, have goals B – Not my problem
  • A has no answer and B has an answer. For example: A – Not sureB – Be focused and have goals
  • A is answered and B is answered with a different response.
  • For example: A – Be focused and have goals B – Everyone is different and they need to come up with their own answers.

Your answer reflects the rules you follow that influence how you behave. Here are the characteristics of each type:

If you checked number 1, this is: my rules for me are my rules for you. You are the type of person who will say, “If I were you, I would do it this way.” What does that mean? If I were you, I would have to do it the way I do it, because of my upbringing, beliefs, experience, etc.

So what are you really saying? If I were you, I would do that the way I do it.

If you checked number 2 this is: my rules for me; don’t have rules for you. I bet you are thinking these are mean people, but they are not; they simply don’t care about the other person.

If you checked number 3, this is: no rules for me, my rules for you. Oftentimes, these are the people who get stuck. They have no rules for themselves, but can tell you what the rules are for others.

Number 4 is: my rules for me, your rules for you. If you argue a point with these folks, they often see both sides. They have rules for themselves, but do not think it is right to load up their rules on anyone else.

Most of the population follows my rules for me, my rules for you pattern. If you have this pattern, you end up making a judgment about what is being communicated, because you are comparing it to your rules.

My people might say to their selves, “Why are you telling me this?” “How could you not know?” “Shut up, so I can tell you what you need to do.” These are just a few examples of what might be going on in their head. They are no longer in rapport and no longer are they listening to the message or intent.

Are You A Good Listener?

How do you rate? Take the following quiz to find out.

1.   Do you spend more time talking than listening? Yes No
2.   Do you come up with a response in your head before they finish speaking? Yes No
3 . Are you eager to talk about your solution? Yes_ No_ Yes No
4.  Do you daydream while your prospect or client is talking? Yes No
5. Do you jump in and finish their questions? Yes No
6.  Do you ask so many questions, the client or prospect does not have Yes No
the client or prospect does not have time to think and answer them? Yes No
7.  Do you make a judgment about what is said before the speaker has finished? Yes No
8. Do you answer a question with a question? Yes No
9. Do you frequently interrupt? Yes No
10. Are you quick to provide advice even when not asked? Yes No

Add up your Yes’s and No’s to review how you did. If you have 8 or more No’s – congratulations. You are an excellent listener.

Are you missing (the) communication?

Following is information about each question from “Are you a good listener?”

1 – Do you spend more time talking than listening?

You speak the language you feel most comfortable with. It is the language in which you take in and process informa­tion. What happens if two people are speaking in different languages? Stuff is coming out of your mouth but the intent is missed. This is what miscommunication is all about.

I told you this was important to my company.

I never saw any of that in our meetings.

I did not understand how strongly you felt about that.

If your client makes one of these statements, which one would you record and which one would not even register?

We communicate to each other in different languages without realizing it. No wonder it becomes difficult to really get the intent of what is being communicated.

2 – Do you come up with a response in your head before they finish speaking?

“How many of you talk to yourself?” “Raise your hand if you do.” “I do not see many hands out there.”

“Raise your hands if you think other people talk to their selves?” “Well, isn’t this interesting; you all do.”

When I ask these questions, those are the responses I get in my workshops. How did you answer the questions?

Guess what? We all talk to ourselves and it is okay. Somewhere along the way, talking to yourself got to be a bad thing and, taken to an extreme, it can be. But the truth is, we all do it; and, yes, I even have arguments with myself.

3 – Are you eager to talk about your solution?

Many times this happens because the salesperson has been conditioned to believe that they must get their canned pitch said as quickly as possible. It happens automatically, like your brain is on cruise control as you wait for your client to take a breath so you can jump in.

4 – Do you daydream while your prospect or client is talking?

This is what can happen during a conversation. We can hear words coming from the other person, but don’t catch their meaning. We might hear every other word or only bits of a sentence, because they are not using our language.

So we consider having a committee meeting. No, not with other people…the conversation in our head.

Maybe we are working on deciding what we are going to have for lunch or what we need to do to get ready for that pipeline review meeting with our manager.

In other words, we have a great conversation with our self, but are no longer listening.

5 – Do you jump in and finish their questions?

We sometimes put on our magic turban and become mind readers. We finish someone’s thoughts and even interrupt to show you how good we are. We know more about what people need than they do and we give our advice freely.

We hate for the other person to pause, but we have adjusted, because we will just have another committee meeting. We will mind read what others are thinking and tell them the answer. Many of us do this and never realize it is going on, but this could be the reason your prospect never calls you back.

6 – Do you ask so many questions, the client or prospect does not have time to think and answer them?

When doing this, the salesperson is not paying attention to what is happening with the person they are communicating with. Rapport has broken down. Salespeople fail to recognize the steps needed to get into rapport and what to do to fix it once it is broken.

7 – Do you make a judgment about what is said, before the speaker has finished?

Remember the rules you have for yourself and the rules you have for others? Most of us have a MY/MY pattern, so we know what we would do if faced with the same problem …so we tell them.

8 – Do you answer a question with a question?

Many of us have been taught that this can be an effective technique but, most times, it fails to get to us to the next step.

9 – Do you frequently interrupt?

We know exactly what they should do and we are losing our patience listening to them go on and on. This type of think­ing will set up the situation of not giving your client an opportunity to let you know their problem, because you are in a judgment mode. Rarely do your clients or prospects trust this type of exchange.

10 – Are you quick to provide advice, even when not

This leads to you offering a solution before knowing what the problem is and the type of results your client is after.

Getting into listening mode

A cat’s whiskers are extremely sensitive, as they are closely connected to their nervous system. Whiskers give cats extra­ordinarily detailed information about their surroundings. Cats use messages from their whiskers to sense the presence, size, and shape of obstacles without seeing or touching them. Interestingly, whiskers also help cats smell odors.

Okay, you are asking, “What do cat whiskers have to do with listening?” Lots! To be totally in a record mode, you must have your senses tuned up a notch and be aware of the person or people you are talking to.

R2 Record

You as a tape recorder is the metaphor used to get you in an interview state with your client or prospect.

Here are the steps:

Why am I here?

There are two questions you must answer. First, “What is your outcome for having this meeting?” Second, “How will you know if the outcome was met?”

Many times my sales staff would come back and report they had a “good meeting.” I would ask, “What is the next step?” They might say, “We set up another meeting.” “To do what?” Rarely would I ever receive a good answer to my last question.


Listen and observe the body to find out which language or channel the other person prefers. Test your assumption to see if you are right. If not, ask a different question or find out how they feel about your discussion. Match the voice and body, but please do not make this a chore, because it shows. Just be aware of it.

Take Notes

Before you take out your pad and pen, ask for permission first. Do not take so many notes that you are looking at your pad more than at your client.

My rules for me/your rules for you If you have a my/my pattern, suspend judgments. You can always go back to it later and use a my/your pattern. This allows you, during the time you are meeting, to listen to what they are intending with their communication.

Push Record

Metaphorically think of yourself as pushing a record button and be interested in the same way as you would be with the famous celebrity.

  • Do your homework
  • Be interested
  • Be respectful
  • Be in rapport


  • Listening is more important than talking.
  • Have an outcome for the conversation.
  • Listen for the channel or language pattern they use. Test it and once you know it, speak to them using their language.
  • Nearly match their voice and body.
  • Use a my rules are for me, your rules are for you frame.
  • Take notes.


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