Deep and Active Listening Skills for Sales

One of the most common questions we’re asked is “How do I become a better listener?” There are countless books, and articles on things like active listening, focused listening, passive listening etc.

One of the most common questions we’re asked is “How do I become a better listener?” There are countless books, and articles on things like active listening, focused listening, passive listening etc. Besides putting down the distractions, and focusing on the conversation you’re having, there are a few tactical things we can all do to become better listeners.

Episode 81 of the Make It Happen Mondays podcast featured an expert in deep listening, Oscar Trimboli. He’s on a mission to create 100M listeners throughout his sales career. One thing he noticed was that your listening skills are directly related to your close ratio.

While I hate hacks and tricks, something Oscar said toward the end of the interview really resonated. The best way to become more effective and efficient is to become a better listener.

Here are the highlights, key takeaways, and some tactical tips to help you sell better.

125-400 Rule

Ever notice how when you’re in a meeting, on a call, or in a classroom, your mind starts wandering. That’s because you can listen much faster than people can speak. Most people speak between 125-150 words per minute, but we listen at 400 words per minute. This means while you’re speaking, your prospect is filling up the other 300 words per minute. Furthermore, as a speaker, you’re thinking at 900 words per minute.

This means that as your prospect is telling you something, they’re only able to communicate about 11% of what they’re thinking.

Listening To Words That Aren’t Spoken

One of the things that many of us do, myself included is paraphrasing. This is when we do things like repeat back what we heard for confirmation. For example, “So, it does sound like sales training is something you’ll be investing in this year?” This is a productive question, but it mostly benefits us, not our customer or prospect.

Instead of paraphrasing what you heard, ask the person you’re speaking with how they would summarize what you just said. For example, “How would you explain our solution to your CFO?”

Tactical Tips to Listen Better

  • Put your cell phone away. It’s one of the biggest distractions there is.
  • Have a clear mind. You can’t listen if you’ve got the last call or your next meeting in your head.
  • Clear your head with box breathing. The deeper you breathe the deeper you listen. Breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, exhale for five seconds.
  • Be specific with high yield questions. They typically happen later in the sales call, and rarely on the first one. Overdoing them can undo your rapport.
  • One of the best things you can do is be respectful of your prospect’s time.
  • Be ready to listen, and listen to yourself first.

Other Items We Discussed

Going for a no, rather than a yes. In his book, Never Split the Difference, former FBI negotiator Chris Voss, has a chapter on listening where one of the goals is to get a no rather than a yes. Too many yeses can lead to happy ears and false positives.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Specifically, we talked about how much NLP is enough to help you as a sales rep.
We’re born to listen. We can listen before we can speak or walk, and listening is often the last of your senses to go.

The Five Levels of Listening

We rounded out the interview, by going speed dating with the five levels of listening. Over three years and after observing a panel of 1410 people, Oscar found that 86% struggle with level one listening – listening to themselves. The biggest barrier to people listening is the noise and distraction in their heads.

  1. Listening to yourself
  2. Listening to the content
  3. Listening to the context
  4. Listening to what’s unsaid
  5. Listening for meaning


Interview Transcript

The following is a transcript of the interview with Oscar Trimboli. It was created using humans and computers and may not be 100% accurate. The Make It Happen Mondays podcast is meant to be listened to as a conversation, but we post the transcript for those who prefer reading.

John Barrows: Good morning everybody this is John Barrows, Make It Happen Monday. Thanks for joining us. Hopefully you all had fantastic weekends. I am here with a very interesting guest. He’s actually joining us from Sydney, Oscar Trimboli. You want to say hi to everybody Oscar, and tell them where you’re coming from?

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, good day John, on a beautiful Friday morning after a huge summer thunderstorm in Sydney last night that knocked out a lot of power and probably lots of trees. I’ve completely obsessed about the commercial implications of not listening, and that shows up the most when it comes to selling scenarios, so really excited to be speaking to you John, and more importantly you who are listening.

John Barrows: Yeah, and I appreciate that. You actually authored a book, it’s called Deep Listening right? It’s impact beyond words, and then the 125 400 rule, because I want to dive into that, because I’m very curious when I was doing a little bit of prep for this what that rule is. So you want to talk a little bit about why first of all you’re so fascinated with listening and what the output has been for you?

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, I mean listening has been a journey through my whole life, that wasn’t a one lightning bolt moment, or lightening strike moment after last night to think about why I went on this quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the world. Through my career I’ve always been in B2B, and occasionally B2C selling, marketing, and technology and telecommunications organizations. With Vodafone and Microsoft. What I learnt was consistently what I was finding the difference between good and great sellers was those who were listening beyond the words, those who were listening to the fact that although you might have won with the proposal you made, great sellers were helping not only to sell the proposal to the team they were working with, but to all the other stakeholders in the business, because sometimes you’re competing against a procurement teams that’s buying paper towels for the restrooms in the building. If Kimberly Clark can come up with a better offer than what you’re selling at, and then not even in your market, you may lose or worse still have an opportunity delayed in the pipeline.

Oscar Trimboli: So I started to pick what does listening really mean. Through that journey, five years ago I took a complete gamble, went out on my own and started to talk to the world about the commercial impact of not listening. Worked with a lot of sales organizations, do a lot of sales kick offs, and try to get people to understand that the ninja move is not about where the listening literature is. You’ll hear these phrases that I’m really frustrated by, active listening and paraphrasing and using really deliberate a-has, and non verbal confirmations with them, and you’re literally faking listening and they can tell. So if you understand the 125, 400 rule, you speak at about 125 to 150 words a minute, but you can listen to 400 words a minute. Neurologically you are programmed to be completely distracted. You fill in the gap with 300 words in your head while they’re catching up to you. What’s worse, for the speaker, they can speak at 125 to 150 words per minute, but they got 900 words a minute in their head, and can think at 900 words a minute.

Oscar Trimboli: I don’t know about you John, but if you had an 11% chance that a surgery would be successful, you’d probably ask for another opinion, yet most of us don’t listen for the other 900 words that people are thinking about, and that’s where opportunities lost in sales.

John Barrows: All right, so let’s dig into that. How do you listen to those other 900 words that aren’t being spoken. You mentioned a bunch of things, the deliberate act of listening things, of yes, and a-has, I never really bought into those, but for instance, paraphrasing or summarizing back to me has always been pretty effective for me, to be like, “Hold on, let me make sure I heard you correctly, is this what you said?” That’s always been a little bit of a … And I don’t do that to show you that I’m active listening, I do that to genuinely understand, I was maybe a little unclear of what you said right there. When you’re talking about those other 900 words, I’d like to dig into first of all why do you think that paraphrasing is not an effective way of doing it, and second of all, if that isn’t an effective way how do you genuinely listen to the other 900 words that aren’t being spoken?

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, so your paraphrase about is this what I heard is a really good example of a productive question, but not a high yield or powerful question. The orientation of the question is from you, and not from them. Your role to pick the other 800 words sitting in their head is to help them, it’s not to help you. High yield question in that context is, “Hey Mr. Prospect, hey Mrs. Prospect, if you were to explain what we’ve just talked about to the finance leader in your organization what would you say to them?” And then you can hear how they would say it to somebody else, and they will say it different, and your understanding of that will expand as well why it’s a high yield question is it’s a question that goes into the process of buying rather than you confirming what you actually heard. It doesn’t matter what you hear, what you need to do is get the other 900 words out. That is your role in that process.

Oscar Trimboli: So too many of us are stuck in our script, we’re stuck in ourselves, we’re worried that we can’t move this out forward. Level one listening, when we think about the five levels of listening all the listening literature says listen to the speaker, that’s useful, but it’s not productive. The most important person you need to listen to is you. If you’ve got the last sales call in your head, if you’ve got the next pipeline scrub with your manager in your head while you’re trying to have a conversation with these people, you will fail in listening to what’s said, and also more importantly to what’s not said. Make sure that you’re ready for the call. You can’t listen to anybody if you’ve got a whole bunch of jibber jabber in your head about something else other than what’s on this call.

Oscar Trimboli: And a really simple technique for that, the deeper you breathe, the deeper you listen, the more oxygen you can get to the brain the more productive it will be, but if there was one thing I’d love you all to do, switch off the cell phone. If you’re on the call, just be focused on that call. The cell phones been designed by the slot machine industry to distract you. All the software learnings from the slot machine industry in Los Vegas is all being taken over to the mobile phone to distract you and fry your brain. Switch it off, just get in the moment with that person you’re talking to.

Oscar Trimboli: So back to the paraphrasing John, make sure when you ask that kind of question, ask them to explain it how somebody else would hear it. It might be finance, it might be human resources, might be the owner of the business, but we want to get them to create a different perspective in their mind, and then they bring out 200 more words, 600 more words, 800 more words. Not all questions and all context, if you’re going to spend all that time in every question doing that, prospect is going to be really frustrated with you, and you’re probably not going to create the rapport to be known, liked, and trust to be bought from. Be really specific when you use those high yield questions.

Oscar Trimboli: It’s typically going to be in the second part of the discovery call rather than right up front as an example, when you’re trying to un peek what the pain is for an organization.

John Barrows: Yeah, it’s funny, I went through early in my career I went through Sandler, and they have the reverse question where it’s effectively the layering question tell me more about that, explain to me whatever. And I remember going through a role play with one of the Sandler guys and I was the customer. He asked me a question, or I asked him a question and he reversed it on me, I was like okay and I kind of played along. And then I asked the question again in a different way, and he reversed it again on me, and then I asked the question again and he reversed it, and I was like, “Answer my fucking question.” If you don’t answer my question I’m going to get annoyed, so I think there is a certain point there you’re doing it just to do it, and I guess to your point in the moment I love to be in the moment.

John Barrows: We had talked before we went live here about the prep that you do to get into a meeting, so for instance for this conversation, I didn’t do a ton of prep, I didn’t read your book. I looked at the highlights, I looked at your LinkedIn profile and I came up with things, and we have a general theme, and I’m a genuinely curious person about stuff. In the moment here, I’m picking up on what you’re saying, and I’m trying to jot down a few points so that I can circle back on those. From the sales rep standpoint, I have two questions, one is pre and one is during. How much preparation should you do when you’re walking into a customer so that you can be in the moment? Because there’s one thing about being super open and saying, “Hey, let’s talk.” But that leads to stupid stuff like, “Tell me about your business. Why don’t you tell me your background?” Which I think is just personally insulting. If you don’t do some homework on me before we have this conversation, and you don’t come with some preparation I actually find that insulting.

John Barrows: What is your recommendation for a rep to walk into a situation? What preparation should they do to a client as far as questions they should think about or what they need to do to be in the moment I guess is what I’m getting at?

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, so in my work with executives, I work buy side and sell side in my day to day consulting. If you understand the biggest currency that people trade in is their time, that is the thing if you can show them respect, around time and I’ll show you quickly how you can make meetings shorter, and actually get out of there quicker, so that they can go, “Wow, that was a really good use of my time.” If you don’t know the top three issues, the top three problems in their industry, you don’t even have the right to be in that room. Don’t turn up without knowing that. That’s useful, but let’s talk about productive. Productive is knowing the top three issues that they’re trying to solve for their customers. If you would do any prep, try and understand what they’re trying to do for their customers. That’s potent. That’s powerful.

Oscar Trimboli: To be in the moment, and I’ll talk about this through a physical meeting and then we’ll talk about it as a phone call. For a physical meeting I always talk to my clients about from the moment you walk in the lobby of that building, to the time you announce yourself into reception or sign into reception, you need to switch off your phone, and you need to get into a state and set an intention, and the intention I always set is it’s not about me, it’s not about them, it’s about those that they serve.

Oscar Trimboli: So for most people, that’s their customer, but in public sector it might be about the citizen, the voter, the department head or something like that. I want to make sure that my intention is how can I help them discover what matters more than our transaction. What matters more than this business case, and ultimately, why the heck are we doing what we’re doing. Because we ain’t going through this meeting to transact. There’s always a higher context for that conversation, and the best starting place is the customer’s customer.

Oscar Trimboli: So from the time I walk in the building, to the time I get into reception and sign in, I become very well of my breathing, and I just hold my breathing a little longer. There’s a technique called box breathing. It’s no secret, because it’s used by the Navy SEALS it’s used by snipers, it’s used by opera singers, it’s used by rock stars, it’s used by Olympic athletes. You’ll see at the start line of any race, whether they’re swimmers or whether they’re runners, or whether they’re doing a high jump, they have this very specific breathing technique that’s down for five seconds, across for five seconds, and up for five seconds. In breathing we just get more oxygen to the brain. I don’t want anybody to become a Zen monk before they go into a meeting and breathing that way. It’s impractical and impossible, but if we can just practice box breathing, five seconds down, five seconds across, and five seconds up, and we do that five times your state is completely on them, and you’ve cleared out everything in your head. So if you want to sell like a Navy SEAL breathe like a Navy SEAL.

John Barrows: Pardon my ignorance, down, across, up-

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, so let’s just do it now John.

John Barrows: Yeah.

Oscar Trimboli: Breathe in, hold for five. Hold again going across.

John Barrows: When you say go across what do you mean?

Oscar Trimboli: Just visualize the breath in your stomach going across.

John Barrows: Oh okay.

Oscar Trimboli: But you’re holding your breath, and then let it out. Breathe out deliberately for five seconds. Now you do that five times, you can do that in the lift, no one’s going to notice. And you’re ready.

John Barrows: So you visualize it going across. You visualize your breath going across your body.

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah.

John Barrows: Okay.

Oscar Trimboli: And you can Google box breathing on YouTube and you’ll get some really really good examples of that, but you’ll also see some great examples of how people are doing it pre-race. I haven’t been able to get an example of a sniper doing it, I guess they don’t let us publish those recordings.

John Barrows: Cool, I want to back up for a second and talk to you about … so we talked about the prep. I like the idea of knowing what those challenges are. When you ask somebody, instead of paraphrasing, when you say explain to me how you’re going to explain this to … my experience doing that, and let’s just realistically a lot of reps talk to decision makers. They talk to people who are below the power line, and obviously want to get above the power line, and I think we get obviously much better answers from people above the power line, but when you’re talking to somebody below the power line, and you ask them those types of questions, how are you going to … usually you get really vague answers. Or very basic answers. “Oh well, I’ll just tell him this is how we’re going to do this.”

John Barrows: What’s your approach to somebody who when you ask that how would you present this or how are you going to explain this to or justify this to so and so and they give you something basic? Because there’s two things there, one is that’s a red flag that that’s probably going to end bad, two is that’s a red flag that they’re probably just blowing you off and going through the motions with you. First of all, how do you identify that? And second of all what do you do in both of those scenarios?

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, so imagine we get the vague answer. You know, “It will be approved that the monthly whatever.” And my follow-up to that will be, “When other projects like this have been approved, what steps have other people gone through to get there?”

John Barrows: Okay.

Oscar Trimboli: So all of a sudden they go, “Oh okay.” And they can be honest and they go, “I have no idea.” And that’s great. I just put that in a little box on the side, and I go great, so we’ve got some work to do around that. They’re not going to get us any further, other than to say come back to the first scenario where they go “Yeah that’s going to be approved at the monthly meeting.” “Oh great, so in the monthly meeting, what do you need to present and who needs to approve it?” That’s all I’m going to ask at that stage. It’s not my job to drill down on understanding the buyer’s journey. Another one of my pet hates about selling is everybody talks about it’s no more about selling it’s now about the buyer’s journey. The buyer doesn’t know they’re on a journey. Nobody’s teaching them. I don’t know any buyers who go and buy journey training. I don’t know any buyer’s journeys that have been the same. So help them understand what happens in that meeting.

Oscar Trimboli: The biggest insight you can provide in that case is they don’t know, and they’re going to go and find out maybe. If they don’t know, that’s okay. Now you know they don’t know. But you want to know who’s in that meeting that’s a monthly meeting to go and approve these kinds of things. So that’s A and B. A who’s in the meeting, what needs to be presented, or B hey when other things like this have been approved, what’s happened?

John Barrows: I have, staying on a similar vain, talking to people who are non decision makers, one of the things that I’ve always said, my favorite way, I think one of the hardest things to do in sales in general is to go over somebody’s head without pissing them off. You have a relationship with somebody, you know you have to get here, but how do you do that without insulting them? My favorite way, I always tell reps is to ask them questions that they don’t know the answers to. And again, not to insult you, but to genuinely understand and it kind of ties to what you had said earlier about the preparation, if you don’t know what the priorities of the challenge is, of their customers and their industry are, you’re going to have a hard time showing value and being relevant in that conversation.

John Barrows: I tell reps, “If you cannot tie to my priorities …” When your CEO genuinely stood up in the beginning of the year and said these are the three things that we got to focus on this year to be successful, if I can’t tie my solution to one or two of those, good luck selling anything of significance. I tend to ask questions that are related to the challenges their customer face, the priorities of the industry, and some of the trends there, because usually people below the power line don’t have that insights, and I tell them, “The reason I’m asking you that question is because if we can’t make that connection.”

John Barrows: Your experience, is that an effective way to open up the conversation to get other people engaged here, or what are some other areas that you could give some guidance on to help figure out how to get other people involved that are above the person we’re talking to?

Oscar Trimboli: Your approach is effective for sure. Some other approaches you may want to explore with them as well is asking really powerful questions about what’s unsaid and understanding the context. The context is always asking “Have projects like this failed before in the past?” Or “Have projects like this succeeded in the past?” And then you can ask a series of who questions that intersect with that.

Oscar Trimboli: Sometimes, depending on how new they are to the organization they don’t know, and then I simply say, “So if I was in the kitchen with you right now at work who would we turn to and ask this question?” All of a sudden they go, “Oh well we’ll talk to Mary. She’s kind of the historical keeper of all the secrets in the organization.” Or “We talk to John, he’s the expert in all the failures that have been done before.” And then you just simply play it back. “What do you think Mary and John would say right now about this?” And they go either A, “Gee, I have to ask them.” Or B, “You know what, these are the questions, they’d be asking right now.” You’re helping them to tap into what’s unsaid. They’re tapping into the context. It’s well beyond the 400, 900 words you’re listening to. It’s helping them listen to the organization and the culture of the organization and the way the organization gets something done, because it’s always in failure, always in the negative you can find more.

Oscar Trimboli: I had the opportunity to interview Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator. And one of the things he-
John Barrows: Is that his book Never Split the Difference? Is that him?

Oscar Trimboli: That’s Never Split the Difference, yeah, it’s a great book. He’s got a whole chapter on listening and does a really good job of picking up with some great stories, but he says, “Too often in selling scenarios you try and always go for the yes, yes, yes. The NLP approach is how do we move people forward and get them into a neurological sequence of saying yes to everything.” Chris has the exact opposite approach and says, “If you can talk to them about the negatives, about the failures, you’re gonna see where the hidden landmines in his language are. To the buying process and the selling process.” For a lot of us, we don’t ask that because we’re too quick to want to get to the purchase order.

Oscar Trimboli: In exploring the negatives, not only can you get to the purchase order faster, you can get to the purchase order with a larger number of zeros on it, because you probably end up solving bigger problems for them. So being comfortable in going to those places that are uncomfortable about the negatives. Where projects like this failed before is a really potent question, and then who can tell us about those projects, or who would worry about a failure going forward on a project like this as well. I’m not sure if you come from the positive or negative orientation to selling here John, but I think in Chris’s wisdom there, there’s an ability to think about both. A bit of salt and bit of pepper on that steak rather than just one or the other.

John Barrows: Yeah, I talk a lot about pain and pleasure questioning. I actually think in sales, yes it’s weird because we get told we want to get a lot of yes’s, but yet we dig for pain. Sales reps are dig for pain, dig for pain, dig for pain, and then when we find pain we get all excited about it, and I always look at above and below the power line. Below the power line, people are focused on today or yesterday, which is usually pain, above the power line is focused on tomorrow, which is usually pleasure.

John Barrows: So I tend to frame my questions into opportunities versus challenges. I personally like to start with pleasure, to see opportunities, and see if I can get the conversation going to effectively raise your temperature level up so it gets you talking about something you like talking about, because that is where I tend to get people elaborating on certain things they want to do so I can help them tie it to that vision, and then go to pain to say, “Okay what would prevent that from happening?” Because now that I painted that picture I want to figure out okay to your point, all the things that could get in the way of doing that. That tends to be my approach in general, but you shouldn’t focus on one or the other, you got to focus on both.

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah.

John Barrows: But I can do all of that and getting a bunch of yes’s and all of a sudden-

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, what happens with a bunch of yes’s is you have a really big pipeline that doesn’t move. That’s even more frustrating.

John Barrows: Well, because then you get happy ears. I call them happy ears. Yeah, they said yes. Do you buy into that, the NLP stuff? There’s one thing about getting people in the right mindset, but then there’s the other thing about NLP of the different personas. So you have visual, auditories and kinesthetics. In that book, I don’t know if you read it, it’s called Selling with NLP! Unfair Advantage, which is if I can figure out what type of communicator you are, and adjust my style towards yours, you’re going to feel a lot more comfortable with me. Do you buy into that type of stuff, or have you experienced that type?

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, I’ve seen it done really well, and I’ve seen it done really poorly. Really poorly it looks fake, it looks transparent and you kind of go, “I know what you’re doing. Stop doing that. Come on. We’re all grown ups here.”

John Barrows: Like the mirroring where you’re like, “Oh.” That type of thing, yeah.

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah. And without any training, the person who knows you’re fake hasn’t gone on NLP training, but they’re human and they’ve got a detector that smells that stuff really fast. I think where it’s useful is as a primary orientation all of us will have one of those lenses as a communication style. What you got to be deliberate about is telling stories, building pictures, having frameworks, as well as data sequence and logic, so that no matter who you’re talking to, because more buying scenarios are group scenarios now, people will be able to access it.

Oscar Trimboli: So I think A, being conscious of your own style, but two having flexibility to be able to tell a story about that, not just to say, the ROI on this is we’re going to save you $25 per widget.

Oscar Trimboli: The opposite is true though too. People buy you. They buy your conviction. So if you’re molding yourself into some caricature that’s the opposite or a mirror image of them they don’t like that. They want to buy you. The genuine you. And I know, I remember one of my largest sales that I ever did, I walked in the room, I had lost nearly five kilos in the previous week. I had eaten something really bad, and I had a meeting on a Friday at nine a.m. I can still visualize the room I was in, and I was just not in the state of mind to be anything other than myself. I run marathons in OSA you know who you’re running with at the 20 mile mark. There is no place to hide, and the same was for me. All my defenses were down, and I walked in, CEO, head of human resources, head of finance, and I went, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.” And it was the standard shtick. We’re looking to transform our organization through a cultural change and duh, duh, duh.

Oscar Trimboli: I said, “Look, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but I know if I open your email …” to the CEO I said this. “If I open your email, and look at every email you sent your entire organization, I can tell you everything about you and your leadership and the problems you’ve got. So let’s cut to the chase. Let’s open up your email, and show me the last three emails you sent to your site.” He went, “What?” I said, “Look, you’ve spoken about change that hasn’t happened for five years, why don’t I give you five minutes to chat about if you want to work with someone like me or not, but I reckon if we do that, you guys are going to have a breakthrough.”

Oscar Trimboli: So they asked me to wait outside the room. For 10 minutes, it felt like an eternity for me, they obviously had a chat amongst each other, the CEO came out, and said, “Well Oscar, we’ve come to a decision. Could you come back into the room?” And I went, “Oh okay.” We went through the emails, and sure enough I could tell him what was working, what wasn’t and he just went, “Wow, how did you just do that?” I said, “I didn’t do anything. I just listened to your emails and the way you communicate to your staff.” I got the assignment, I did a debrief with them a month later and said, “What happened when I wasn’t in the room?” They said, “They don’t know what I’m selling, but they want to buy what I created in that room when I challenged the CEO.”

Oscar Trimboli: I know they were looking at a big four consulting organization and some very large national consulting companies, and I was column fodder. I was put in there as a cheap alternative to bid down the price of the two big consulting companies. If I would have turned up trying to pretend to be like them, I wouldn’t have won the business. Being you matters. And a lot of us hide behind our company sometimes, because we get the script, but be you. I reckon that’s the most important thing you can do to access your listening, is listen to yourself so they can listen to themselves.

Oscar Trimboli: Back to the NLP question. If you’re doing it in a really smarmy way, people smell it, don’t do it. Do it productively. Do it in a way that’s helpful for them rather than just helping you. Anyway, if that book was so awesome, everyone would be doing it.

John Barrows: I always say, “You can go get NLP certified if you want to, I think that’s going overboard. Just make sure you hit all three.” Right to your point. I recognize yours, and then when you’re doing your presentations, make sure you have visual, auditory, and kinesthetic things in your presentation so you can hit on all three. And then blatantly obvious that somebody’s like, “Slow down there, I need some facts and figures, and show me some and walk me through this.” Okay, then slow down, sit down next to them, but to your point don’t be the fake, I’m going to mirror your body language I’m going to say the exact same words you say so I can all of a sudden control the conversation. That’s weird.

John Barrows: One last question, actually two last questions. One is, could you explain to me what the five levels of listening are? Because you scratched the surface on that, and I think the listeners it would be really helpful to understand what the five layers are.

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, so let’s go on a speed date with the five levels of listening. Level one, listening to yourself, level two, listening to the content, level three listening to the context, level four listening for what’s unsaid, the ultimate ninja move of listening, the Yoda move of listening, listening for what’s unsaid, and level five listening for meaning.

Oscar Trimboli: John, I’ve done research on 1410 people. It’s a panel that I’m working with over three years, and 86% of people struggle with level one listening. The biggest barrier to people listening is the noise in their head. The distractions that they have, and all of them struggle with attention, distraction, and staying focused. They’re the three most common words that 1410 people use to describe what gets in their way when it comes to listening. No matter what the modern listening literature says about focus on the speaker and paraphrase and actively listen, 86% of us aren’t even ready to listen. Level one, listen to yourself is the most critical thing you can do.

John Barrows: I like it. And then the last thing is, before we went live here you had said something, we are born listeners. We listen, we don’t talk, as soon as we come out we hear stuff. We can’t verbalize it, so we learn to talk later, but it gets beaten out of us.

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, and it happens even sooner. At 20 weeks in your mother’s womb, you can distinguish your mother’s voice from any other sound outside the womb. You are genetically programmed to be an awesome listener, because it helps you survive. That’s where you get fed. At 32 weeks, you can distinguish Bon Jovi from Beethoven in your womb, and the minute we’re born, we come into the world kicking, screaming, and wanting to be noticed.

Oscar Trimboli: For the 20th century, we have been trained by a huge industry of people in how to listen. Sorry, in how to speak. And the 21st century we need to know that a seller is spending up to 70% of their day listening. The average person is spending 55% of their day listening. And an executive is spending 86% of their day listening. If you want the productivity hack of the 21st century, if you want to be faster than your competition you’ve got to learn how to listen, because meetings are quicker, you hear the most important things, and you can be focused on not repeating yourself over and over again. Ironically John, the last thing you lose in your senses when you die is listening.

John Barrows: There we go. I think that’s a good way to end it. Perfect. Oscar, it’s been a pleasure. We can talk and listen for quite a while now. Tell the audience where they can learn more about you, how they can get in touch with you, what’s the best way to get exposed to what you’re doing these days?

Oscar Trimboli: Yeah, great, the simplest thing to do is type into Google, that’s the easiest way to get in touch. There’s only one of me. That will land you on the website, which will give you access to books and podcasts and things like that. If you want to be part of the future research panel as well to understand what you’re listening barriers are, that’s another opportunity you can interact with us as well. John, thanks for helping on the quest for 100 million deep listeners in the world. This podcast is a really exciting opportunity for that.

John Barrows: Yeah, no, I appreciate you coming on and some of the insights that you shared there. Hopefully some people pick up on that. I think you’re spot on, the distractions, at the very least this little thing right here has prevented us from listening to each other more than almost anything else. Put the iPhone away, shut the email off when you’re talking to people, and just be authentic and genuinely curious, I think that’s the big takeaway here. Appreciate everything you’re doing Oscar and thank you so much for coming on. All right.

Oscar Trimboli: Thanks for listening.

John Barrows: Yup, everybody have a great week. Go out there, make somebody happy. Put a small on somebody’s faces, we need more of that in this world today. And listen to people, because you know what at the end of the day when you really listen to people you make them happy if they feel hurt. Make it a great day everybody, thank you all very much. Brilliant. All right.