Listen up - it's the most important thing you can do

publication date: May 26, 2011
author/source: Colleen Bradley

A successful gift planner will probably spend more time using listening skills than any other kind of skill. Listening is even more valuable than familiarity with the technical aspects of gift planning - knowing how gifts such as life insurance, trusts, annuities and bequests work.

Like other skills, listening takes practice. And each donor you listen to will add to your expertise.

Tips for being a good listener

  • Give your full attention to the person who is speaking. Don't look out the window or at what else is going on in the room, even if you have a rambunctious dog vying for your attention.
  • Make sure your mind is focused. It can be easy to let your mind wander if you think you know what your donor is going to say next, but you might be wrong! If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and try to concentrate on the speaker's words.
  • Let the donor finish before you begin to talk. Donors appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted.
  • Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can't really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.
  • Listen for main ideas.  Pay attention to statements that begin with phrases such as "My point is..." or "The thing to remember is..."
  • Ask questions. If you are not sure you understand what the donor has said, just ask. It is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the donor said so that you can be sure your understanding is correct.
  • Give feedback. Look at the donor. Now and then, nod to show that you understand. At appropriate points you may also smile, frown, laugh, or be silent. These are all ways to let your donor know that you are really listening. Remember, you listen with your face as well as your ears!
  • Active listening builds trust and rapport. Have fun! You never know what a donor may share with you.


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