Are you a good listener? Here are 10 clues

I agonize writing new business proposals.

“Don’t spend all that time,” my husband says. “Just give them a price and move on.” Fine for him to say. He worked in IT, where it was all about the bottom line. But when people hire me, they want to know that I understand their needs, have experience meeting similar needs and can build on that experience to find high-value strategies that solve their unique problems.

I try to follow Pereto’s principle when writing a proposal: Eighty percent of it should be about the prospect and 20 percent about me. To do that, I have to listen to the prospect, assuming their RFP process even allows them to talk to me. If it doesn’t, I’ll research them and their competitors online and reach out to my acquaintances in related fields. I’ll cast their specific problems in the frame of the global conditions affecting their industry as a whole.

When I’m on the other side of the table – when I am interviewing prospective suppliers – I’m looking for those who quiz me intelligently and spend most of the time learning about me. Spending our interview telling me about yourself puts you on the fast track to the exit door.

I write a lot here about the role listening plays in the communications process. This article has 10 tips to help you determine if you’re a good listener. Author Elizabeth Sosnow says, “People love to talk—and they always welcome an audience. Use their need to help yourself  become a more thoughtful, insightful professional.”

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  1. Reply

    Hi from B’ham to RO, Sharlan:

    Hate to see smart observations potentially undercut by a common word slip, so please tolerate this grammarian butting in with a heads-up that you mean to say Pereto’s principle (as in your earlier post), not principal.

    Wish I could truthfully claim I never mix ’em up!

  2. Sharlan Douglas


    I spotted that mistake about five minutes ago and I’m agonizing over what to do. Reissue the enews with the correction and a mea culpa? Mention it in next month’s issue? I really do know the difference between principal and principle!

    Thanks for keeping me honest, Alan!

  3. Showey


    Your princiPAL should be your PAL.
    Bonus for you: Spell cAlEndAr using the first vowels in the first three months (jAn fEb mAr).

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