Monday, April 11, 2016

"Listening Between The Lines For More Effective Communication"

We know how important listening is for communication in general. It’s even more important for understanding the needs of our aging-in-place clients and consumers while we are meeting with them in their homes or speaking with them on the phone before meeting with them because the interaction time is condensed. Sometimes we have just a few minutes with someone to gain a sense of what they need and who can benefit the most from what we offer.

Not everyone who approaches us or that we talk with about creating aging-in-place solutions for them will be someone that we eventually will work with to create solutions for them and their home. There may not be a good fit.


When we initially engage someone or their appointed representative, we have just moments to help them get comfortable with us, determine why they have chosen to consider us and what we offer for their solution, talk to them about how we might be able to address their needs, and determine their level of interest (in what we offer plus being able to make a decision) before deciding if this is a person that may eventually do business with us.


During this same time, the customers are sizing us up and evaluating some of the same factors – how well they think we understand them, how they believe we can meet their needs, their trust and confidence level with us, the general quality of our product or strength of our solutions as they perceive it, and whether they want to pursue additional dialog with us.

They are listening to us talk and evaluating us as individuals (our attitude, manners, knowledge, experience, and believability), our product or potential solutions for their expressed or perceived needs, and our company (even if we are the company). We are trying to determine if they are serious candidates for allowing us to work with them by asking them questions, observing their body language and tone of voice, and interpreting their answers and any questions they are asking us as to what they might be revealing about their buying motives or intent.


This is listening between the lines – attempting to discern what is meant or what is being said even though it is not expressly verbalized. The provider who learns to do this well will have a definite competitive advantage over those who just show and tell and occasionally ask a question.


Asking questions just because we think it is polite to do so, the script calls for it, or as a way trying to get the customers involved – but not really wanting to hear what they have to say is not going to help. Unless we are ready to apply this information that we are told (including what is said between the lines) to our sales presentation and tailor it specifically to what the client or customer wants and needs to hear to make a decision, we are not going to be viewed very highly by them.

We could talk for hours about our products and solutions. We know the information cold – or at least we should. The important thing to remember is from our vast storehouse of knowledge about what we offer, what can we tell our potential clients and customers that will (1) impress them about the quality of what we have, (2) persuade them that we are a good fit for what they are looking for, and (3) convince them that we are interested in them as people?

Learning to listen between the lines gives us the additional discernment to become accomplished communicators as we discover the intent or meaning of what they want to tell us - even when it is not specifically voiced.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.