Who's Listening?

Good question.


What do Sir Michael Parkinson and Sir David Frost have to offer those in business, marketing and sales? In a word, lots.


Both are consummate interviewers whose selective use and economy of words ensures and facilitates expansive responses. The more words offered in responses to good questions the better the prospects of insights and identification of key factors which influence perceptions, preferences, buying patterns, purchase decisions and satisfaction.


Sadly, it has become increasingly conspicuous in recent times that the ability of business owners, marketers, sales people and service providers to ‘communicate' at large and to elicit meaningful responses in particular have declined dramatically.


Some will contend that the trend is a consequence of ever increasing use of the electronic and social media in which brevity is often seen as a virtue. SMS texts by their very nature are limited to a maximum 144 characters. That is clearly insufficient for many to project the very nature of their character.


Many contracts, deals, sales and opportunities are lost because of misunderstandings or simply a failure to understand. It is an expensive lesson to learn. One should seldom economise on or avoid communication with stakeholders at large-current, prospective and past clients in particular.




The spoken word is an optimal communication medium because the receivers are able to identify, analyse and respond to key nuances, which are often not conspicuous in emails and text messages. These nuances add meaning to the phrase: “to express oneself”.


Moreover, agreements and common understandings are usually concluded faster and more efficiently with the spoken word.


Productivity is constantly enhanced when emails, text messages and letters elicit responses on the telephone and in person.


We do live and operate in a world of multichannels. Each is and should be both recognised and used as complementary conveyers of communication.




Monosyllabic answers should be contained to distracted adolescents in the back seat of a motor vehicle and to males who are transfixed on the telecasts of sporting events!


The timeless art of interviewing, negotiating, marketing, selling and customer service excellence is to engage in compelling and responsive discourse which avoids “yes” and “no” as sole and definitive answers.... until the time arrives to conclude the deal.


Raconteur Michael Parkinson readily and expansively nominates as his worst professional interview experience an encounter with Academy Award winning actress Jodie Foster. Try as he might, he was unable to have the interviewee expand beyond simple one word answers.


Notwithstanding his experience and expertise in the craft of structuring questions which avoid “yes” or “no” answers he met his match with a person whose skills centre on communications.


It was a poor experience for the interviewer, the interviewee and, above all, the viewing audience. It should also serve as a lesson for all.




In essence, excellence in communications has three essential phases, being...


•  Listen
•  Speak
•  Listen


The sequence and balance of the clearly verbal communication process detailed above is about right. We need to listen and take in more than we expel.


I am sure that Parkinson and Frost would demur to a preference of a 5:1 ratio. That is, to listen, receive and analyse five times more than the amount one expresses. It is a skill, reinforced by discipline, practice and preparation.




Remember, yes and no are not possible answers to questions which focus on the key issues of: -


•  Who?
•  What?
•  Where?
•  When?
•  How?
•  Why?


The final issue of why should be utilised astutely and repetitively. It provides answers and expressions which are typically invaluable and insightful.