I hear versions of the following complaints from business owners all of the time, perhaps you can relate:
“I’ve been putting my marketing message out there, doing everything I’m supposed to, but no one is responding. I’m on every social media site, but no one is paying any attention to me.”
“I wish I was better at sales. If only I could come up with a better sales pitch, everything would be different.”
“My clients pay me good money for my advice. Why don’t they take it?”
The answer isn’t what you think it is…
It’s easy to think that the answer to these issues lies in being a better talker. If only we were better with words, a little more eloquent, a more effective speaker, then we could get clients and prospects to listen. But the key to getting others to listen is actually something counter-intuitive.
The key to getting your clients and prospects to listen and take action is not to be a better talker, but to be a better listener.
Yup. In this world of constant noise, getting quiet and listening will serve you much better than shouting a little louder.
Why listening is so powerful:
One: It’s reciprocal.
Have you ever been in a conversation and it is clear that the other person is not listening to you? How does that make you feel? I’m guessing not good. And those negative feelings will make it less likely that you are willing to listen to them.
On the other hand, when you are speaking with someone and you feel like they are really hearing what you have to say, how much more likely are you to listen to what they have to say?
Two: You can gather crucial information.
Imagine you are in a conversation (and I’m sure you’ve all been here) where the other person is speaking about things that you just don’t care about. Let’s face it, not only are you not listening to them, but you are actively trying to come up with an excuse to get out of that conversation as quickly as you can.
Now let’s imagine that you are in a conversation about a topic that you are passionate about. You feel completely connected to that person, as they seem to be reading your mind. In that situation you will be highly engaged and open to what they have to say.
I’m guessing that no one wants to be the person in scenario one where the other person can’t run away fast enough. The way to avoid being that guy is to be a better listener. When you use listening skills, you learn what the other person (your client, your prospect, your employee) cares about, and can tailor your conversation to be relevant to them. And when the conversation is relevant to them, they will listen.
3 Tips for effective listening
What gets in the way of true listening? Most of us have a tendency to start thinking about what we want to say next, while the other person is speaking. We are so focused on getting our message out, that we don’t listen to theirs. When we do this, we miss valuable information that can help us better understand our clients and what they need from us.
Use the following techniques to up your listening game:
One: Repeat their words.
One way to be a better listener is to repeat back or summarize what the other person just said to you. Such as, “John, I hear that you have many big expenses coming up, and you are strapped for cash right now.” When you do this, it shows the other person that you are paying attention, and it also forces you to pay attention!
Two: Take notes.
Taking notes is a way to actively listen to the other person, and it’s also a great way to remember what they said.
Three: Ask follow up questions.
When you ask questions, you show interest, and you are able to dive deeper into what your client is thinking and feeling, deepening your understanding of the situation or issue. You also avoid making mistakes based on insufficient information.
A Powerful Listening Technique that Will Grow Your Business
In his book “The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field,” Mike Michalowicz gives us one of the most powerful techniques we can use. It’s called the Wishlist or Client Interview.
The Wishlist Interview
If you are wondering why this is so powerful, it is your opportunity to get inside the heads of your best customers, and as a result, offer them exactly what they want, using the words that will resonate with them. And when you are speaking their language, and giving them exactly what they want, your clients and prospects will listen.
The Wish List interview is a simple and effective strategy, and yet very few companies know how to do it well. If you use it, you are guaranteed to stand out. Keep in mind –
“The Wish List is not about you- how you can improve, how awesome you are. The Wish List is about your clients, and what they need…”
The purpose of the interview is not to sell them something. You are looking to get to know them better, understand what their needs are, and listen for the seeds of ideas that you can focus on when you develop new products/services and when you craft your message. Keep your focus on the client, not on yourself, and follow these steps for a successful interview:
One: After evaluating who your Top Clients are (see Identify Your Top Clients and Unique Offering for Explosive Growth ), reach out to them and ask to speak with them, so that you can serve them better.
Two: Ask some very specific questions, in a very specific way, such as:
What has been the most positive part of your interaction with my company? What are you happy with?
What don’t you like about my industry? What frustrates you about vendors in my industry?
If you could ask for anything from my industry and get it, what would it be?
Notice that aside from the first question, the focus is on your industry, not on you. Using your industry as the subject makes it more likely that you will get honest answers from your clients. (For additional Wishlist questions, see chapter 8 of “The Pumpkin Plan” by Mike Michalowicz).
As Dr. Sabrina Starling of Tap the Potential discovered, the information that you can get by asking the right questions and listening to their answers can be gold. Dr. Sabrina did her first Wish List Interview 5 years ago. What she discovered led her down a path of developing an expertise in hiring and developing A Player employees to create highly profitable, great places to work.
She was able to offer programs that are exactly what her Top Clients want and need from her. She wrote a book (How to Hire the Best) and is about to release her second book. She launched a successful podcast (Profit by Design). And she has grown her business several times over, all because she asked, and continues to ask the right questions and listens to the answers. Dr. Sabrina speaks the same language as her clients, talks to them about what they care about, and in return, they listen.
Whether you are speaking with a potential client, a client, or an employee, remember to ask more questions and listen closely first, so when you do speak, what you have to say will be relevant and motivational.