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I can’t hear you over me

Sheri Fisher
Vail, CO, Colorado

Kevin walked into my office and a whirlwind of energy followed behind him. My client immediately began talking, filling every space with words, like chocolate syrup pouring over ice cream and seeping into existing gaps.

“I’m having a hard time at work and am not meeting my quota,” he began. Kevin was a salesperson who spent most of his time talking to people. He continued, “My boss called me in and told me that if I don’t reach my quota, I will be out of a job.”

Before I could say a word, Kevin talked further about the extent of the problem, how he felt about it and what might happen. A coaching appointment is the perfect place to talk through things, but I began to sense what might be happening in his sales calls. Kevin had so much to share that he wasn’t aware of the other person. Especially in sales, a customer who is not heard is probably a customer who does not buy.

But he wasn’t here for sales training; we were here to coach. One of the coaching ground rules we agreed to in the beginning was to “bottom line it,” which means to get to the point. In some cases, the story can become so detailed the point is missed.

I asked him to “bottom line it.” What did he want to coach around today?

“I don’t want to lose my job,” he said. “I am passionate about my work, but I am unable to effectively relate to the customer and close the sale.”

“What are the top three reasons people want your product?” I asked.

He began another dialogue about all of the benefits of his products, but he wasn’t answering my question. I re-directed, “What do your clients want?” Again, he started a dialogue.

I interrupted, “What do your clients say?”

He paused and was speechless. “I don’t know; usually I do all of the talking.”

Now it was my turn to pause as he digested what he had just said.

“That’s the problem, isn’t it?” he asked.

To answer Kevin’s question, I asked if he was willing to experiment with me. He agreed. I asked if we could sit quietly for five minutes.

After 20 seconds, he began to open his mouth, but stopped. He watched the clock click to five minutes and immediately began talking.

“I talk too much, don’t I?” he asked. “I am uncomfortable with silence and can’t help myself. I process things as I talk, but I can overwhelm people. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m single and I’m having a hard time meeting my quota.”

“How can you allow more space in your conversations?” I asked.

“Just being aware of it is a huge first step,” he said. “I get so caught up in telling people what I know, that I don’t really listen to what they know.”

“What can you do to remind yourself to find out what they know?”

“Reporters do that all of the time,” he said. “In fact, many times during interviews, you never really see the person behind the camera asking the questions. It may sound dumb, but I’ll pretend I’m a reporter holding a microphone, interviewing the other person. That will remind me to focus on them instead of talking all of the time.”

“How will you remember your role as a ‘reporter’?”

“I’ll get a picture of a microphone and put it inside my portfolio to remind me. In fact, I’ll start right now by asking you, ‘what do you think about that?'”

Coaching Challenge: To gauge your listening skills, tune in to a couple of your conversations and determine if you talk more than you listen. If so, experiment in at least three conversations this week with being a reporter. This doesn’t mean you interrogate the other person, but you are more focused on what s/he thinks, feels and says. Your job is to understand his/her perspective. Play with silence within the conversation. Pause two seconds longer in between comments while you think about what the other person said and relate that back. Ponder the fact that the same letters that are in the word LISTEN are also in the word SILENT.

Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Sheri can be reached at sheri@coachwithsheri.com or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.


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