Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationships and Business Performance



What counts in communication? Listening skills for discernment and trust. Discerning people are the most successful and listening skills are important for discernment.

So if you’re in management but don’t listen, you’re not discerning in human resources and not viewed as trustworthy. As a result, you’ll harm employees’ morale and risk losing them.

If you’re in sports, your team can’t possibly win unless there’s teamwork from every player listening to the team coach, captain or quarterback.

Mergers & AcquisitionsIf you’re in sales and don’t listen, you’ll lose prospective customers.

Top salespeople listen 80 to 90 percent in every customer interaction, which enables them to be discerning to make the best recommendations.

Even longtime customers won’t put up with it. You’re guaranteed to lose them once they have as many as five unfortunate experiences with your company.

Customers leave 70 percent of the time because they feel taken for granted.

In my experience as a corporate trainer, every time I ask women to name their No.1 complaint about men, I get just one answer: “They don’t listen.” It never fails.

But it’s not just men who don’t listen. Both men and women are often guilty of not listening because they’re task-oriented.

When approached by employees and coworkers, they keep on writing or reading without paying close-enough attention to what’s being said.

This also means they miss important signals – what’s not being said – otherwise, known as reading between the lines.

The author of “Just Listen,” Mark Goulston, Ph.d., (markgoulston.com) is a clinical psychiatrist, who says there are four Rs that people listen. Some are productive and some aren’t.

Discerning people are the most successful and listening skills are important for discernment.

From published reports, here are his four Rs of listening:

1. Removed listening

A removed listener doesn’t really listen when multi-tasking.

“If you’re foolish enough to be glib and parrot back the words the other person said just to show that you were listening, that’s not going to win friends and influence people,” said Dr. Goulston said.

2. Reactive listening

Even more annoying is the reactive listener. They react instead of responding. Someone who responds will think about what to say before saying it. They’ll think about what to do before they do it.

 “You take issue with everything the other person says. There is no such thing as a dialogue in your conversations,” he observed. “They immediately become a debate.”

3. Responsible listening

A responsible listener will hear the words and respond appropriately. People commonly do it. It works well, but it’s not the highest form of listening.

4. Receptive listening

The highest form of listening occurs when we demonstrate the deepest type of listening – by responding with kindness after reading between the lines.

As a scenario, he suggests when a friend survives a rainfall and arrives drenched at your residence. The friend mentions she’s soaked.

A receptive listener will respond:  “Yes, you’re all wet from the rain…You must be freezing. Let me take your wet coat and make you a cup of tea to warm you up.”

From the Coach’s Corner, more tips related to communication and listening skills:

How New Managers Can Win as Great Communicators — Poor communication results in managerial dysfunction and vice versa. That often happens because a significant number of workers is mistakenly promoted into management. You’ve heard of The Peter Principle, right? That’s when people rise to their level of incompetence.

The late University of Southern California professor and author Laurence J. Peter also theorized about what he called “percussive sublimation.”

Secrets in Motivating Employees to Offer Profitable Ideas — Savvy employers know how to profit from their human capital. Such knowledge is a powerful weapon for high performance in a competitive marketplace. Furthermore, there’s a correlation among excellent sales, happy customers, and high employee morale.

Proverbially speaking, employees are where the tire meets the road. They daily experience firsthand a wide variety of problems – including dysfunction from vendors, shortcomings of software, aggravations of customers, poor intra-company communication and dangers facing your company.

18 Tips for Productive Behavior to Win in Office Politics — Most people troubled by office politics are too focused on the behavior of their adversaries. Stop giving away your personal power. Don’t think or act like a victim. Office politics aren’t fun.

Ironically, one of the most entertaining TV shows that’s all about office politics is “Suits.” It’s a fun, engaging and thrilling legal drama on the USA Network. Gabriel Macht plays the role of New York City corporate attorney Harvey Specter, who will do almost anything to win a case.

The 22 Dos and Don’ts for Successful Negotiations — No matter what you need to negotiate, there are easy strategies to get anything you want. But you must first remember it’s important to reach a fair compromise – with win-win negotiating skills.

You’ll want both parties to feel positive after the negotiation is complete. In other words, emotional needs for both of you have to be met.

Discouraged in Job Hunting? Powerful Tips for the Best Job — Few things in life are as shattering to an unemployed person’s self-esteem as the inability to draw a paycheck. In this downturn, good jobs can be difficult to get. And most job seekers are weary from their character-building trials. Under-employment is another result of this economy.

Whether unemployed or under-employed, a person needs two things: A sense of hope and the right tools to negotiate a job. More than 100 years ago, Oscar Wilde wrote: “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

-Bernard Baruch


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Want a Wealthy Clientele? Lessons from Investment Firms



If you want a wealthy clientele, lessons provided by investment firms show you must focus on your relationship skills. Trust is a vital component to build relationships.

For wealthy clients, this means you need to provide exclusivity, special client experiences with generosity and product quality.

These are the qualities exhibited by successful boutique wealth-management firms.

There are good reasons – actually very obvious reasons – why some wealth management firms are growing and others aren’t.

A 2014 study by the Luxury Institute confirms what this business-coaching portal has long advocated.

Any time you handle someone’s money, you must take great care to build trust. In fact, bank woes provide lessons for all companies seeking growth.

Study’s respondents

A Luxury Institute press release indicated investors with an average net worth of $15 million and annual average income of $800,000 shared their detailed opinions of 39 leading firms in the wealth management business.

The study shows boutique wealth management firms increasingly have brand approval among multi-millionaires.

In fact, firms such as UBS and Merrill Lynch are suffering, as a result.

“Consumers are opting for boutique firms,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Wealthy consumers really value relationships and the smaller boutique firms really deliver.”

He says Merrill Lynch fell to last place out of 39 firms. UBS Private Wealth Management came in second to last. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Charles Schwab rounded out the bottom five.

Brand perceptions

Negative press coverage about legal problems has adversely impacted the biggest of such firms, including Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. Other big brands, including, Citi Private Bank, Barclays Wealth, HSBC Private Bank and Wells Fargo also ranked in the bottom half of brands.

“Any time you have news that’s a negative in the media, these firms are going to get hit,” confirms Mr. Pedraza. “The larger firms took a beating.”

While the specific rankings tend to vary from year to year, quartile placement remains relatively stable, according to Mr. Pedraza.

While dropping slightly from its number three spot in 2013, Bessemer Trust made the top five list several years in a row. Brown Brothers Harriman, which took the top spot in 2013 and in 2012, tumbled off the top-five list.

Northern Trust, Vanguard Personal Investors and J.P. Morgan Private Wealth Management also fell out of the top five.

Set up in 1882 as the Rockefeller family office, New York-based Rockefeller & Co. earns the highest score. Ranking closely behind Rockefeller & Co. are Atlanta-based Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management, and Convergent Wealth Advisors. First Republic Private Wealth Management, and Bessemer Trust round out the top five.

The bottom-line:

“Successful wealth managers are relationship builders first, and, since few can beat the markets in the long run, money managers second,” adds Mr. Pedraza.

From the Coach’s Corner, to build trust, here are more specific tips for a variety of businesses:

To Sell Ideas to Senior Executives, Tap into Their Emotions — If you want to persuade a senior executive, polish your soft skills. Whether you’re trying to sell your ideas to your CEO or you’re trying to sell to a key decision maker at another company, big data is important. But data isn’t the most important factor in persuading senior executives.

Want More Business? Build Trust with Consumers…Here’s How — With consumers trying to cope with information overload – you will increase sales with long-term customer loyalty – if you build trust by using best practices. It may be an obvious approach, but it’s confirmed by a 2012 study that shows 84 percent of the respondents declared trust must be warranted before they buy.

Energize Your Customer-Loyalty Program with 6 Steps — The quickest way for established businesses to optimize revenue is to have a stellar customer-loyalty program — there are six steps you can take for repeat sales and referrals. If you’re not a great steward of your current book of business, it’s futile to look for new customers.

Consultants – 5 Strategies to Build Trust with Clients — The five strategies that enhance relationships between consultants and clients.

Thought Leadership — Why Companies Hire Management Consultants — Companies want knowledge. A good idea can be worth $1 million and more. That’s why companies hire thought leaders. It’s also why you see many consultants position themselves as thought leaders and give away free information in how-to articles or studies, which lead to books, seminars and being quoted in the media.

“Trust everybody, but cut the cards.”

-Finley Peter Dunne

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.


Sales Lessons for Car Dealers and Other Retailers



Guess who makes most of the decisions for the family in buying cars? Seventy-three percent of moms say they’re the chief decision-maker .

Increasingly, as you might guess, moms visit Internet sites to shop for cars but want face-to-face meetings before buying, according to a 2014 study by C+R Research funded by Cars.com.

Even though Cars.com would seemingly have a conflict of interest, nonetheless the data appears to be accurate based on my experience.

ID-100234444 stockimagesWith consumers trying to cope with information overload – you’ll increase sales with long-term customer loyalty – if you build trust with consumers.

“There’s a lot for moms to consider when purchasing a new family vehicle, because their car is often tasked with hauling not only the entire family or carpool, but also all of the gear that goes along with them,” said Jennifer Newman, Cars.com’s Expert Mom.

Even though 71 percent of surveyed moms say research on the Internet is their preference, 68 percent want to negotiate in-person at the dealership.

Fifty-nine percent of the moms also say want to find a dealer with which they can have a long-term buying relationship.

Some disturbing information:

“More than 60 percent of moms surveyed said they trust the information they find online more than what they’re told from dealers, which means dealers need to go above and beyond to prove their authenticity and value,” said Jack Simmons, Manager of Dealer Training at Cars.com.

More findings:

— 90 percent of moms want the negotiation of the price to be as simple and easy as possible

— 71 percent of moms agree that shopping online for a new or used vehicle makes the process so much easier

— 66 percent of moms trust the information they find online more than information they receive from the auto dealer

— 62 percent of moms feel that most dealerships treat them like a valued customer

— 75 percent feel dealers are pushy and aggressive

From the Coach’s Corner, if you want more revenue, here are editor’s picks for maximum sales:

10 Tips to Optimize Your Web Site for Higher Sales — If you haven’t optimized your Web site for sales, you might want to reconsider. There are more and more indications that online shopping will continue to grow.

14 Steps to Profit from Online Customer Reviews — For competitiveness and profits, businesses can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce. Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

How Mobile Strategies Are Most Effective with Cross-Channel Marketing — Businesses are increasingly using mobile apps to sell products, but the most successful know how best. They use cross-channel marketing tools.

5 Critical Fundamentals to Build the Best Sales Staff — The crucial question: How can a company develop a top sales crew? Short answer: Start with a premise — if it were so easy then everybody would be doing it. Long answer: Some companies are achieving stellar sales results in complex global situations by adopting best practices.

Checklist – Top 18 Attributes of the Best Salespeople — What’s needed to be effective in sales? Merely having a gregarious personality will no longer cut it in the 21st century. As a manager, if you want to improve your company’s sales performance, become a winning sales organization and review your recruitment techniques in hiring salespeople.

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

-Mary Kay Ash

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Photo courtesy of stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net


Lessons about Trust – 2 Deeply Disturbing Behaviors by Judges, Journalists in Wisconsin



Trust is critical in all professions. So are appearances.

But two developments in 2012 raise shocking concerns about trust and appearances in the rule of law and quality of journalism in Wisconsin.

Why? It appears in Wisconsin you can’t get a fair trial in nearly three dozen courts, and you can’t get objective reporting from a major news media company.

Lawyers are traditionally the butt of jokes. Now, 29 circuit court judges risk being similarly stigmatized in Wisconsin.

For decades, journalists have been accused of having a liberal bias. Now, there’s lots of evidence that tends to confirm the perception at least in Wisconsin – involving 25 Gannett Wisconsin Media journalists, including seven at the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

ID-100211536 Stuart MilesWhat do the judges and journalists have in common?

The 29 circuit court judges and 25 Gannett journalists signed political petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

Yes, you read the sentence correctly. Twenty-nine circuit court judges and 25 journalists signed petitions that would lead to the recall of the governor.

Admittedly, I’m not a legal expert regarding the ethics of judges in Wisconsin. But as a lifelong journalist, I’m very familiar with the principles surrounding these disgusting acts of the journalists.

We’re not talking about just citizen journalists and bloggers. It’s an outrage and does harm to the professional image of journalists.

The good news is that the newspaper realizes the dangerous implications from such actions of its journalists.

“It was wrong, and those who signed the petition were in breach of Gannett’s principles of ethical conduct,” wrote columnist Kevin Corrado on March 23, 2012.

“Our journalists are expected to provide you with the clearest picture of the news as it develops – with objectivity and impartiality,” he added. “And, as readers, you must be able to trust that your newspaper is providing you the most complete picture, without bias of any kind.”

Strangely, many of the journalists told their bosses they saw nothing wrong – that signing the petition was tantamount to casting a ballot on Election Day. Great, the journalists can’t connect the dots.

Further, the problem is much bigger than the ethics violations in signing recall petitions. People are consistent. If so-called professionals display questionable judgment and behavior in one area of their lives, they are guilty of similar behavior in other ways. Count on it.

So the petition signings raise questions about the cultures in Wisconsin courts and newsrooms.

Mr. Corrado indicated that the Gannett journalists violated six of 32 company policies:

» We will remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that may compromise the credibility of our news report.

» We will maintain an impartial, arm’s length relationship with anyone seeking to influence the news.

» We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content.

» We will take responsibility for our decisions and consider the possible consequences of our actions.

» We will be conscientious in observing these Principles.

» We will always try to do the right thing.

Actually, the six principles are transferrable and applicable for any sector or industry.

But questions remains: What about the 29 biased judges? What’s been done about their bias? If Gov. Walker hadn’t won the recall election so convincingly, his opponents would have filed all kinds of legal objections. What then? The governor has the last laugh.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are trust-related resources for business:

“I never trust people’s assertions, I always judge of them by their actions.”

-Ann Radcliffe

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Marketing Financial Information? Be Careful Choosing a Medium



If you’re in the business of communicating financial data, don’t succumb to the charm of state-of-the-art technology, especially online video. In choosing a messenger medium, a conservative approach is best. Trust is paramount.

That concept was underscored by a 2012 academic study that concluded the use of online video by CEOs to release a financial restatement will not be fully trusted by investors, especially when blaming others for accounting errors.

The study’s researchers: Frank D. Hodge of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, W. Brooke Elliott of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Lisa M. Sedor of DePaul University.

ipad-407799_1280A headline for the article regarding the study at accountingtoday.com read: “Study Examines Use of Video for Financial Restatements.”

The site explained the study was published by the American Accounting Association in The Accounting Review.

Apparently, it’s OK to use a YouTube video when management is contrite for reporting errors.

But such contrition for errors and a restatement raises suspicious eyebrows when management points the finger at outside accountants.

“Video announcements of this kind require very special care,” said Dr. Hodge, according to accountingtoday.com.

“Managing the response of investors to events as negative as restatements (which, according to the GAO, reduced market capitalization of companies by $36 billion over a three-year period) is a formidable undertaking,” he explained. “Doing so via video over the Internet makes it all the more formidable.”

The study reveals a CEO who apologizes in online video for the need of a restatement – on a rating scale of 1 to 7 – receives a 6.15 rating. But a CEO who attributes the errors to outside accountants only gets a 4 rating.

On the other hand, such CEO statements in print were accorded ratings of 4.75 and 4.55, respectively.

“In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”

-Eric Schmidt

The use of such online video also affected the amounts invested by fund managers. The amounts only decreased 3 percent if the CEO accepted fault.

But if the CEO pointed fingers, the investments dropped by nearly 26 percent. If the same information was presented in print, the decreases were 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Methodology for the fictional scenarios: The researchers compared the opinions of 80 managers who had an average nine years experience. They were divided into four groups.

“Restating financial statements is inconsistent with investors’ positive expectations regarding an investee firm and its management, thus damaging investor trust,” the researchers wrote.

“Although excuses can be effective, individuals who deny responsibility for a failure (i.e., excuse their behavior by blaming others) risk being viewed as more deceitful and as possessing lower character than are individuals who accept responsibility for the failure,” they explained. “Beliefs about another’s character are key components of trust, and once violated trust is difficult to repair. Even when the violator issues an apology, accepting responsibility by making an internal attribution repairs trust to a greater extent than does denying responsibility by making an external attribution.”

The study makes sense. However, my view as a business-performance consultant is that a video should only be used to direct viewers to the source of information – not conveying the full information.

From the Coach’s Corner, suggested reading for consultants:

How Twitter Levels the Playing Field for Small Cap Companies — Good news for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are known to kvetch that that their companies fall below the radar screen of Wall Street analysts and the media. It’s widely known that mainstream media coverage seems to favor large companies over small ones. It’s a valid concern.

Insights into How Twitter Users Can Forge Opinion — If you want to influence public opinion on Twitter, the trick is to get your message out early. Once your message is stabilized on the social medium, it’s too difficult for your competitors to overcome your lead according to research.

Performance Gap Solutions for Consultants in Income and Image — How’s business? Is it time for a little biz coaching? If there’s a disparity between your income goals and your current financial situation, it would appear that you have a performance-gap issue.

Consultants – 5 Strategies to Build Trust with Clients — The five strategies that enhance relationships between consultants and clients.

Tips for Building Long-Term Client Relationships with Effective Meetings — How are you faring with your clients? Not sure? To be certain you’re doing well, you must ask yourself three key questions.

“In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”

-Eric Schmidt


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 






Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.