Listening skills are crucial in any area of business development, including client retention, effective management and increasing sales. In college I learned about a non-verbal listening process developed by Gerard Egan for his "Skilled Helper" approach to counseling. The process is S.O.L.E.R., an acronym which has amazingly stuck in my mind for about 9 years. Although this device is primarily used in the training of counselors, I have found it is useful for anyone wanting to improve their skills as a listener. Try this out on your clients, colleagues, employees or family and you will immediately see its effectiveness in communication.
-S (Squarely) - Sit squarely to the person. Also, position yourself at a comfortable distance.
-O (Open) - Maintain an open posture. Do not cross your arms or fold your legs which convey a defensive attitude.
-L (Lean) - Lean in slightly. This shows interest and concern.
-E (Eye Contact) - Of course, maintain eye contact. I recall our teacher telling us that when you are the talker, it is okay to periodically break eye contact with your listener, but when you are the listener, you must maintain eye contact. I have found it takes practice to maintain eye contact without making the person feel as though you are staring at them.
-R (Relaxed) - Be relaxed. Being relaxed can help the talker relax. Likewise, appearing uptight can make the person feel uncomfortable.
Good luck and please let me know your results!