This piece was originally published @ For Brokers By Brokers.
Early in my working life I found myself in a mail-order sales role, working telephones as if my life depended upon it. Which in a way it did. Money is oxygen for a small business, and the ringing phones were the sound of money.
One skill learned early on was to repeat back exactly the information requested, but to do so in the format desired by you.
For instance, you can ask somebody for their credit card, let them rattle off all 16 digits in a stream and maybe say a few uh-huhs and gotchas, but if you really want to take control of the call and eliminate error you will read back the first four digits and pause (possibly even breaking in to the 16 digit stream). And nearly every single time the caller will then read you the next four and pause for you, in turn you read those four back and pause, and so on.
Repeating credit card numbers was a key skill in my learning-how-to-listen experience.
It was also a lesson in how we can have a significant impact on the flow and pace of a conversation with a subtle bit of feedback.
When a client spells their name, reads you their SIN, address, or email—the key stuff—do not say ‘yep’ or ‘got-it’, because you almost certainly do-not-got-it. Instead, read back the exact information they just gave you, and read it back in bite-size pieces that you can work with.
Often, as the client reads their first three SIN digits I interject and repeat them before they utter the fourth digit, and the client will pause after the sixth digit waiting for me to recite the second three back. We adapt quickly to the style of the person on the other side of the conversation, so lead the conversation so that the information flows to you in a way that you can accept.
This is you taking control of the process and setting expectations in a very small way in the early minutes of the very first call.
Taking control and setting expectations is what this business is all about.
Equally important is listening for similar cues from the person you are speaking with. Whenever possible try and match their pace and delivery, except in areas of communicating crucial raw data. This is when you need to be certain you are gathering it all accurately.