Solid listening skills are an essential element of communication in business consulting. More specifically, as a budding consulting-business owner, you should familiarize yourself with the art of “active listening”—a set of techniques, which when used correctly, will enable you to engage your clients and give them a reason to feel confident in your abilities. Not only that; active listening will help you to solve your clients’ problems more effectively.
Active listening is a business consulting communication skill which is especially useful in your opening discussions with clients, when they are filling you in on their business and the issues they need to resolve.
What Makes an Active Listener?
Acquiring the basics of active listening isn’t too difficult, although becoming adept involves learning quite a few techniques, most of which you wouldn’t want to try without some practice in the mirror or with a role-playing partner.
You can make a good start, without diving too much into the theory, by getting familiar with the following dos and don’ts which active listeners habitually observe.
- Active listeners don’t draw any conclusions until they have heard all the information the client has to provide. Communication in business consulting is not about impressing clients with how quickly you can grasp their issues.
- Active listeners don’t interject, interrupt or attempt to finish clients’ sentences for them—it’s rude and it can cause people to lose their train of thought.
- Active listeners do ask plenty of probing questions after the client has finished speaking.
- Active listeners do use reflection, paraphrasing and summarizing techniques to check understanding of what clients have told them. These three important business consulting communication skills also reassure the client that you’ve been listening.
- Active listeners do use open body language and maintain visual contact with the speaker.
- Active listeners do train their minds to refrain from wandering while clients are speaking.
Check Back Soon for Some Active Listening Tips
In a future post or two, I’ll provide some practical tips to help you with reflection, paraphrasing, summarizing, body language, visual connection and mental focus. Most people are not naturally active listeners—it takes a bit of practice. Once you have the hang of it though, you’ll possess a powerful tool to aid client engagement and effective communication in your business consulting projects.