We have all been in a situation where you're having a conversation with someone and can't quite remember everything that person said. Don't let that be the case when it comes to business transactions; you don't want your potential buyers to think you aren't listening to what they have to say.

Neuroscience research has proven that people's brains produce oxytocin, the "social bonding" chemical, when they feel they're being listened to. The production of oxytocin can lead to more trust between you and your prospect, ultimately increasing your chances of closing the sale. Oxytocin also increases your ability to anchor and remember details about others.

There are three types of listening: multi-task, focused and active listening.

  • Multi-tasked listening is what we do 85 percent of the time (i.e. driving, listening to the radio and using GPS).
  • Focused listening is paying attention to the speaker while multi-tasking in your brain.
  • Active listening means you are 100 percent zoned into what the speaker is saying and doing. We call that 'Listening to Connect.

When we meet someone new, we establish a spot in our brain that contains details about our conversations with each person. If we have challenging or competitive conversations vs. co-creating conversations, our brain remembers them and saves those that are friendly and healthy in a different way and in different places. When we are going to meet with someone, our brain reminds us of previous conversations we've had and sends us signals of 'friend or foe.'

Active listening is a skill that needs to be improved over time, but it's the type of listening that will bring you great success in creating a bond with your buyer. The more your prospect notices you're tuned into every word they're saying, the more oxytocin their brain will produce.  Here are four steps that will help you graduate from a focused listener to an active listener.

1. Focus Attention: Listening to Connect

Before the conversation commences you must focus all your energy on the other person. Make sure your mind is void of any lingering thoughts or distractions and hold a steady eye contact throughout the exchange. Some other examples beside steady eye contact, of focused attention are:

  • Lean forward to engage the speaker
  • Don't talk while they're talking
  • Strive to find an understanding of their words

2. Interpret the Meaning

More often than not, communication misunderstandings stem from the misinterpretation of the meaning. Active listening involves linking what the speaker means to what you think they mean. This is where paying attention to nonverbal cues becomes essential.

Learn to "read" your clients. Judith E. Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, says to "look for signs of acceptance, doubt, misunderstanding and rejection. What you're listening to is just as important as how you're listening to it." Research suggests that more than 90 percent of what we truly feel is communicated through our nonverbal signals, including tone of voice, body language and facial expressions.

Look for a positive flow in those signals. It's crucial that you find the agreement between the verbal and nonverbal communication so your interpretation of what is being said is accurate. This is why we say that active listening is to actively listening to connect to what the person is trying to say to you.

3. Acknowledge the Speaker's Point of View

Once you've interpreted their meaning, you have to confirm your understanding of what they've just told you. This is one of the most important steps in the achievement of active listening. If you are not successful in your interpretations of what they meant, then two things could make the situation go downhill:

  • The speaker thinks you're not listening, which can make them feel annoyed and become unwilling to work with you. When or if this happens, their brain will be producing cortisol which is a steroid hormone that regulates stress and moves you and the other person into a state of distrust. Then the hormone cortisol is activated and levels of connectivity and listening lower.
  • You can easily misinterpret the speaker's meaning, causing the possibility of future mistakes.

In order to avoid these mishaps, it's best to confirm your understanding by summarizing what they've already told you. This will let them know what your interpretation is and will allow them to clarify it if need be.  

4. Confirm Your Understanding

The Golden Rule for active listening: Do not express your ideas, thoughts or opinions on a subject before acknowledging what the other person has said and meant. After completing steps two and three you need to make sure you're right in the way you've interpreted their message. Confirming your understanding closes the communication loop between you and the speaker.

Your level of careful active listening in the early stages of getting to know your potential customer primes your future conversations If your customer comes away having good feelings about you they will look forward to the next conversation with you. We call that priming. And if you actively listen and listen to connect, your future client will look forward to seeing you and they will be producing oxytocin (the bonding hormone) before you meet again - they will be in an open receptive state and will be more open to buy from you because they trust you.

Once you've covered all the bases while listening to your potential buyer, it's important to remember why you're there - you want them to buy your product. Research has shown that asking about a future buying decision increases the likelihood of that person making the purchase. So, make sure to ask your prospect when they're looking to buy and why during the discovery phase of your selling process.