Sales Team Development Team Building

12 Ways to Actively Listen with Open and Closed End Questions

                                    Focus- Questions

During your 1:1 Coaching Sessions with your team members, you need to keep many things in mind to actively listen. A coach must understand what the current situation is before he or she can effectively offer guidance and improve performance.

When someone truly feels heard, they feel that their opinions and view-points are valued. This helps in engagement and ultimately in building on a stable and growing Sales Team.

  • Focus on the conversation and make eye contact if the person is face to face with you. -If the person is not face to face sometimes it helps to have a picture of the person from Linked In or another photo source to keep your energy focused on the person on the other line. 
  • Stop talking and listen to everything that is said. Listen intently for pauses-in the breathing, in intonation changes. What is said is important but How it is said is also very important.
  • Notice what is not said– See if there is some information that is not being mentioned. If there is something being omitted, ask some open-ended questions. Open-ended questions usually start with What? Why? How? These usually uncover some key areas that you can then ask some more direct and closed questions looking for a response.
  • Block out distractions– Try and have your phone on silent with non-vibrating mode so this does not distract you. Have other the other office phone on DND or silent if you are making the call on your cell phone. in your
  • Take notes– This becomes a record for a future conversation. It helps with action items that come out of this meeting and who is doing what. You may be asked to check into some things that are important for your team member. You may ask them to check with someone or do something before your next session. Notes help you stay on task and keep the next conversation on track. One session builds from the previous one.
  • Don’t assume you know where the speaker is taking the discussion. When we are open and are asking open ended questions, we can then see the direction the discussion and coaching session is going. Many times, you start to talk about something as a problem, but the real problem is only uncovered after a significant time has passed and questions are being asked and answered.
  • Be sensitive (show empathy) to what the person may be feeling or experiencing. People need to know that they are being heard and understood. Empathy goes a long way in helping feel more comfortable when discussing situations and their feelings about certain situations.
  • Be nonjudgmental– There is a tendency as a coach to make a judgement when they are listening to many bits of information. After all, as managers and coaches, we are paid to make informed decisions when we feel we have accumulated the most important face. What is being said to you is not about this being right, this being wrong or this being hurtful and this being manipulative. It is about truly being present and hearing fully what is being said to you.
  • Paraphrase to check your understanding of what is said. This is important to make sure you are on the right track in understanding what the issue is about or how your team member is feeling.
  • Ask questions to confirm your understanding. This is when you ask closed ended questions. These questions usually start with “When?” When this happened then you saw this, or you experienced…?
  • Is there anything else? This is the question you need to ask when you feel that the discussion topics have been exhausted. This makes a fitting time for closure. People do not like when a coaching session is abruptly ended because time is up. Asking this question sends a signal that you want to hear all that this person has to say.
  • Key Take-aways and Action Items– After this coaching session, make sure there are clear follow up steps that will be done after this session. Make it clear who is to do what? Make sure you utilize the Action Cycle for what is being asked of you and your team member. Make sure you know when they are expecting an answer on some questions that they have asked of you. Make it also clear on when you expect to hear from them on the items that they were to accomplish or get further information on.

Weekly 1:1 sessions that utilize a form to keep things on track and discuss some action items from the session the previous week keep things flowing nicely and can be lead-ins to the next set of open ended questions in the upcoming session.

All of this leads to better communication and better communication between team members and a team leader/coach lead to more active engagement and team movement toward the big picture goal.

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