Listening Skills: The Missing Element of Negotiation
As a negotiation listening skills speaker, I am often asked why so many negotiations don’t show positive results. My response is that participants often talk right past the important points.
Listening Skills are The Hidden Element
In my talks as a negotiation skills speaker, I often ask those who are participating virtually or in-person if anyone ever taught them how to listen? I’m usually met with blank stares. It’s a shame because listening skills in a negotiation are more important than talking. In fact, listening skills are the hidden element.
Let me give you an example. On average, we spend 75 percent of our day communicating. It might surprise you to know that 30 percent of that communication is speaking but 45 percent is listening. Here’s another interesting fact: on average, most of us speak at 125 words per minute, but we listen at 400 words per minute.
In a negotiation, we want to hear what the other side has to say. In turn, they want to hear what we have to say. In fact, they expect it. In a negotiation, when we are tempted to keep talking and not to listen, we are losing “our seat” at the negotiating table simply by saying too much. This is a common problem with sales teams no matter the business.
In my virtual training sessions to sales teams on developing negotiation listening skills, I often stress that the difference between speaking and listening can make or break a negotiation.
Five Keys to Listening
In terms of developing listening skills in negotiation, there are at least five key things everyone on your team must do. Let me briefly review them.
- Listen to the content. It is human nature to bulldoze over what someone is saying because we’re so intent on getting our point across. Please resist the temptation. Listen to the content of their point.
- Listen to the intent. What is the other side committed to, and why are they holding on so strongly to that belief? Be determined to meet them on common ground, and respect what they are saying.
- Observe their nonverbal communication. It is impossible to keep talking and observe at the same time. By listening, you can pick up invaluable clues from body language to voice inflection. Please allow your powers of observation to be present.
- Monitor your nonverbal communication. If you are observing them, they are observing you. Be pleasant, be present, but don’t let your body give away your position. Show me a sales person who appears meek or antagonistic, and I can almost guarantee how the negotiation will unfold.
- Listen without judgment, but with empathy. Many “old-school” sales people come from the “take no prisoner” school of negotiation. It may work if we are buying a used car where we will never see the dealer again; it is counter-productive if we are trying to establish a longer-term relationship. Feel what the other side needs, it is permissible to “be human!”
Listening skills in negotiation is an art as well as an “exercise.” And, I might add, the act of listening has a positive impact on every other aspect of our lives.
Mike Hourigan, Negotiation Skills Speaker, speaks virtually and in-person on improving negotiation listening skills and on all aspects of the negotiation process. For more information, call Mike today at (704) 875-3030 or by filling out the form below.