Great salespeople are great listeners—and this is especially true of brokers. The ones who can tune in to a client’s true needs (sometimes unspoken), bounce ideas around, and make smart suggestions are the ones who ultimately close more deals.
If you want to be a better broker, you really need to be a better listener. And you’ve probably heard the usual advice telling you to nod your head or repeat back what the speaker has said. But these gestures often fall short, write leadership consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman.
The duo looked at over three thousand 360-degree leadership assessments and uncovered striking differences between truly great and merely average listeners.
Inspired by their findings, here are four powerful ways to take your listening to the next level:
- Don’t just nod along. The best listeners ask questions that challenge assumptions and lead to new discoveries. “Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening,” they explain, “but asking good questions tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehend it well enough to want additional information.” The next time you’re talking to a client, instead of saying, “Yes, sure, of course, mmhmm, I understand,” or the usual affirmations, push a little deeper. Ask how they arrived at their conclusion or if they’d consider an alternative approach. Don’t be afraid to challenge their thinking or to bounce ideas around.
- Show your confidence in the other person. Even when viewpoints diverge, great listeners keep the experience positive for everyone, Folkman and Zenger say. That doesn’t mean being passive or choosing not to speak up. But, they write, “Good listening includes interactions that build a person’s self-esteem.” The next time you’re navigating through a tricky conversation, remember that you can always say something like, “I admire your approach on so many things, but in this case I disagree. Maybe we don’t have the same information, so let’s figure out how we can get on the same page."
- Listen with an ear for cooperation, not competition. “Poor listeners were seen as competitive,” Folkman and Zenger say. “—as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response.” Good listeners, on the other hand, will disagree openly. But they’ll do it from a place of wanting to help the other person, not for the sake of winning an argument. As a broker, you’re always working in your client’s best interests. But when you’re positive they’re wrong and you’re right, be sure to voice your opinion in a way that’s constructive and helpful, not combative or dismissive.
- Add your suggestions. A common complaint people have about poor listeners is that they don’t take the time to actually listen—they just dive right in with suggestions for “fixing" the problem. (Think of the salesperson who just launches into a pitch!) But good listeners have a way of providing feedback people want to accept. Folkman and Zenger speculate that people may be more likely to take advice from those they already consider to be good listeners. This is great news for you as a broker, since your job is to provide guidance to your clients—just make sure you’ve heard them out first.
Folkman and Zenger’s insights reframe listening as a refreshing opportunity to collaborate, not just sit back, nod, and passively soak up what’s being said. It’s a smart approach for brokers, too—one that can not only lead to more deals, but ultimately to better relationships with everyone you interact with.
“Good listeners are like trampolines,” they write. "They are someone you can bounce ideas off of—and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline."