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Listening with your eyes

We all remember our grade school teachers saying “Class, up here, let me see your eyes” to make sure we were paying attention. I used a similar term with my children whenever we attended events with a speaker or in church. My boys were probably tired of hearing “boys, listen with your eyes.” Today, more than ever before this has become an issue. Unfortunately, the next generation of both customers and employees have even a bigger distraction. Let’s face it, a growing percentage of our population needs to have their eyes surgically removed from their smartphone.


VISUAL LEARNERS (approximately 65 percent of the population) This type of learner is best at collecting information with their eyes. This includes looking at visual images or reading text. Visual learners usually prefer graphics, illustrations and charts. They are able to remember details and ideas in picture form, typically what they’ve seen before.

AUDITORY LEARNERS (approximately 30 percent of the population) This type of learner is best at collecting information with their ears. This includes listening and talking. Although easily distracted, auditory learners learn by memorizing sound. For instance, they learn instructions by repeating them over and over again.  They often like background music to block out interrupting noises.

KINESTHETIC LEARNERS (approximately 5 percent of the population) This type of learner is best at collecting meaning through touch and movement. Kinesthetic learners learn through physical interaction; most are young children. In essence, touching is a way of seeing.

Learn from your own experience the next time you attend a meeting or are in small group.  Pay close attention to those who are truly visually focused on what is being said.  If you are a speaker, see if you can count the number of people actually “listening with their eyes.”   Based on the learning types described above, or based on good old Confucius in 450 B.C., if you really want to learn something, you need to be engaged visually.

Applying this to sales simply means that we need to pay attention to our customers.  We can’t fake it.  They will see right through us.  If we want to really learn about a customer’s needs, we must get dialed in with our eyes.  That doesn’t mean it is a staring contest, it simply means that your eyes are connecting what you are seeing with what you are hearing.  If you work at studying body language and your customer’s visual queues, you will be amazed at what you will learn.   The bottom line is unless we discipline ourselves, we will become visually deaf.  Our ability to gain trust and carry on meaningful conversations with friends, family, and customers will continue to get worse.

3 quick tips when you are with a customer

1. Visually invest in your customer before you use your eyes to stare at a phone or a computer even if those tools are part of your discovery process.

2. Don’t ask questions without eye contact when you are filling out information on paper or a computer. If you are in fill-in the blank mode on a computer screen, look up to start each question.

3. If you ever feel like the customer thinks you weren’t listening because of poor eye contact, restate or paraphrase what they were saying so they know you really were paying attention. (gain back that trust)

* credit to Janice Tazbir, Associate Professor, Purdue University-Calumet