white men can't jump

In the movie White Men Can't Jump, when Woody Harrelson's character puts a Jimi Hendrix tape into the car player, Wesley Snipes's character admonishes, "Look man, you can listen to Jimi but you can't hear him. There's a difference man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him." 

Listening is defined as making an effort to hear something. Hearing can be defined as paying attention to gain knowledge or insight. Listening does not always equal hearing. This is especially true in marketing or selling situations, where the seller's desire to speak erects a barrier between listening and hearing.

Many people are poor listeners, even in everyday life. Several studies show that adults typically listen at only 25% efficiency level.

"Inactive listening" means simply being present when someone is speaking, but not absorbing what is being said. You hear the words, but your mind is wandering and no communication is taking place.

Unfortunately, many people treat listening as the stimulus for their response, rather than an act of learning to inform their response. It's been referred to as "selfish listening." They tend to listen and think about something else at the same time. Rather than carefully attending to what the other person has said, many people think about their response while the other person is talking. 

In addition, we tend to interpret things to coincide with the views that we already have. We assume we already know and understand what other people are saying, because we assume that it corresponds to our own expectations about what the person is likely to say or "should" be saying.

In last week's ResultsMailVT, we asked if salespersons should always try to get to "yes." (We argue that they shouldn't) If your sales approach demonstrates that you're trying to get to "yes," you've set up a defensive situation in which ambiguous messages are interpreted by buyers in the worst possible way. Buyers' clear messages tend to be ignored or disregarded, if they're inconsistent with our original view.

Much marketing is done in relation to selfish listening. This is when you see the “me, me, and more about me” marketing content based on products and company grandeur rather than what prospects are interested in.

I'll argue that these listening/hearing problems derive from a seller's desire to get to "yes." If you've already decided where the conversation should end up, you're far more likely to listen selfishly, i.e., use the speaker's words to formulate your response, or interpret what they're saying through our "get to 'yes'" filter.

By contrast, if instead of trying to direct someone to your (self-serving) "yes," you conduct an investigation to find out the optimal outcome for the other party, your listening and hearing will be properly aligned.

An attempt at persuasion leads to poor listening. An investigation requires active listening.

Mike O'Horo

Interested in a decision process based on a high-integrity investigation? Take a look at these three steps:

  1. Learning how your "door-opener" problem affects the company you're talking to
  2. Exposing The Cost of Doing Nothing
  3. "Stakeholder Alignment": Add value by helping buyers make a good decision