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Posted: April 12, 2012

Making money with your ears

Listen up, and close more sales

Liz Wendling

Almost everyone sincerely believes that they listen effectively. Very few people think they need to develop their listening skills.  Most of us are terrible listeners. We're such poor listeners, that we don't know how much we’re missing by not honing this skill.  It's not because listening effectively is so difficult. It’s that most of us have never developed the habits that make us effective listeners.

One of my mentors gave me a gift I never forgot. She told me to “listen so people will speak and speak so people will listen.” What I heard was that I every time I speak, my words must be for the betterment of the conversation and to allow others to feel comfortable and heard. I then set out on a personal listening experiment that altered my life and increased my income.

Sundays at church I have the pleasure of watching a gentleman interpret the entire service using sign language. From time to time I gaze over at him in awe of his skill.  I watch his long hands move with ease and grace as he listens intently and articulates the message to the deaf parishioners. One service something dawned on me and got me thinking how people who use sign language communicate in the complete opposite way of how hearing people communicate.

Here is what I discovered. Each signer typically waits for the other person to stop signing before they answer. They have to. How else can you really understand unless they’re allowed to finish their thought with their hands? People who hear tend to jump in mid-way to add our thoughts and inject our point without giving the other person time to finish. We make assumptions about what is being or what will be said.  That often leads to someone not feeling validated and heard. In signing, most of the time, each person has to give each other their full attention without much interruption. They give each other the sweetest gift; complete understanding. They are listening for clarity without interrupting or making assumptions.

It got me thinking. What if salespeople treated their customers that way? Listened intently to what was being shared and gained a full understanding of what was being said. What if I started doing that when I was listening to someone?  Could I listen at a deeper level that I was not accustomed to? Could I open my ears and shut my mouth?  Was that possible for a talkative person like me?  I knew if I was going to suggest you to do this, I had to try it out for myself.

Turns out, my listening experiment was not as easy as I thought. In fact, it was hard work and I became quite frustrated with myself for not being able to resist my urge to respond.  I had the answer and didn’t feel like waiting. It happened over and over and was not sure I could pull this off. I was determined to learn a new lesson and hone this business altering skill. I picked a day where I knew would be around many people who would be asking me questions. I set out committed to give everyone I listened with my undivided attention. I heard their words, listened to what they were saying and gave them my full attention.

It’s sounds easy, but wait until you try it for yourself.  I don’t know how many times my teeth were biting my bottom lip in an effort to resist the urge to talk. I managed to keep my ears open and my mouth shut.  I resisted my natural impulse to jump in and assume.  I’m happy to report it can be done. Though unhappy to report I still slip up and haven’t mastered this difficult skill.  It was the hardest experiment to date for me and it is one I shall never forget. I felt more connected with each person I listened to because I know they sensed the gift I gave them. I listened to them. I discovered a new asset in my business; my ears. My ears were a big part of how I made my living and grew my business.

What I discovered in the process of attempting to become a better listener was, although it was tough in the beginning to open my ears and shut my mouth, in the end the rewards were sweet. It felt good to know that when I gave someone my full attention, I felt good in the process. Win-win. I know I gave them what others are unwilling or unable to give. I challenge you to try this listening experiment. It is life altering.

Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.

Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.

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Readers Respond

Liz, love your experiment and stories and the truth of your conclusions. I'm particularly impressed with your listening experiment since I know you're an extrovert from Jersey! By TC North on 2012 04 25
Well said! Yes indeed. People love to talk. so if we stop talking and start listening we can learn so much more. I remember when I was studying to be a therapist we put in situations to get use to sitting through (what seemed like) the uncomfortable silent moments. But in learning that gift...we allow the client to process more of what they need to. Thank you. By Teri Karjala on 2012 04 16
Excellent suggestion to intentionally focus on improving our listening skills. I also love the sign language analogy. For several years, I had the opportunity to deliver software training classes to hearing-impaired government employees. It was a huge learning experience as I needed to purposely slow the pace my presentation to allow the interpreters time to sign, and also learned to focus on clearer language and descriptions to improve the communication. And, to expand the sales analogy, I had to put my ego aside as the participants were rarely looking at me; their attention instead was on the message (interpreter) and the screen (delivery). Great recommendations, Liz, that I will use at my next meeting. By Dawn Bjork Buzbee on 2012 04 15
Great article! I agree with you Todd, but sometimes some person are all ears with the conversation they are interested in. but some wants to talk about what’s in their mind rather than what others want to talk about. it maybe depend on the subject matter, to get their attention to listen. kids for example. By zoren on 2012 04 13
Great observation, Liz. I love the sign language analogy. As one who frequently opens my mouth too early (sometimes with my brain in sleep mode), I appreciate how challenging this can be! It's much more fun to talk with people who actively listen than those who spew all of the time. Cheers By Todd Ordal on 2012 04 12
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