3 Ways Listening Can Improve Your Business + New Client Website
You don’t see many business articles written on listening, but I believe it’s a powerful skill that definitely gets overlooked. So today, I'm shining a light on it and I'm even including a fun listening-themed reveal at the end...
Here are 3 ways you can use listening for greater success in your business (or career).
1. Gain More Trust By Understanding Your Clients/Customers’ Problems First
It’s natural, especially if we are selling something, to want to tell others all about the problems we can solve for them.
However, too often, we jump the gun and assume what those we meet are facing and then sell them right away - far before understanding how they feel about a situation.
Here’s one example of how this can backfire:
A fitness coach went up to a friend of mine, literally patted his stomach, and told him - “Hey if you’re trying to get back into the dating scene, you’re going to need to drop those extra 20 pounds and I can help you do it.”
Ugh. Yeah, that really happened. Obviously, this is an extreme example but we never want to be that guy.
What I try to practice, whether meeting someone for the first time or even during a free discovery call, is active listening.
Active listening means taking an active role in listening to another person- seeking to understand their perspective by asking meaningful questions and being genuinely interested in their answers.
When you’re talking to a prospective client/customer, ask them about themselves first. Ask them about what they are facing in their business. Actively seek more details to first understand their perspective. One great thing about this is finding you do have value you could offer someone that didn't initially appear to need your help.
When you do see that opportunity, you know enough to bridge the gap in the conversation between their problem and you being the solution.
You can’t be a good, mutually-beneficial solution for someone without really understanding the issues at hand. And by the same token, the more you take a genuine interest in someone and their problems, the more you’ll stand out from other entrepreneurs who don’t take the time!
2. Seek extra ways to demonstrate to your clients/customers (or your boss/co-workers) that you are listening to them
One of my favorite things to do is to personalize proposals for my prospective clients. After an initial, free discovery call to talk about a person’s career or business, I put together an estimate for them.
This estimate is custom created for that person. It includes a letter from me and also includes a page that I write about them specifically. This page is all about the initial conversation we’ve had (where I’ve tried to listen) and on this page, I articulate the problems and the solutions the person is seeking for their career or their business.
Taking the time to do something like this isn’t required, but it’s an extra mile touch that shows other people I am listening.
Thanks to details like this, even clients who have chosen not to move forward on a project have remarked how much they enjoyed the proposal and have a positive impression of my brand because of it.
Try to think of one or two ways you could go above and beyond to show someone else you are listening to them. People want to feel that they’ve been understood and heard.
The first step is to listen, the second is to show it.
3. Remember, listening is also about putting yourself in others’ shoes
A few months ago, I was looking at hiring a consultant for a special project. This time, I was on the other side of things and unfortunately, I had a very disappointing experience because that person didn't put themselves in my shoes at all in the estimate process.
Here's what happened. During my first call with a prospective consultant, everything went well and I felt listened to/cared about, etc. I was excited about the possibilities of collaborating. As next steps, I had asked the consultant to follow up with a custom estimate + recommendation with example deliverables so I could review everything, to which he agreed. I was told I’d have this all together within a few days.
A week went by and nothing.
Another few days go by and nothing - so I feel forgotten about and become the one to email and check-in.
This time, I get a reply - so sorry, I’ll have it to you tomorrow.
Several days later, I finally get an email.
And here's the kicker: the email doesn't include an estimate or example materials - the things we had discussed. It is simply a pitch for me to use a pre-determined package that had existed on his website from the very beginning. It doesn't acknowledge a request for anything else.
"So why was I waiting on that all this time?" I thought. "Did he totally forget about me or what we talked about? Does he care?"
I ended up feeling totally unlistened to. Clearly, this consultant never took the time to put himself in my shoes to understand how any of this might make me feel. They didn't know the commitment or acknowledge they didn't meet it (which continued on into the shifting dates for sending the materials). Upon finally getting this response, I felt frustrated, ignored, and like my time had been wasted and not valued.
You don't ever want your clients to feel this way if you can help it. Working to avoid this will always start with listening.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t hire this consultant, which is a shame because they might have added value. However, in the end, I didn't trust them after how poorly the estimate process went and how little my perspective was listened to or considered. I didn't believe this person cared about my business or would be invested in helping it succeed.
On the other hand, when you are super considerate with others - it can come back to you in huge ways.
For me, the people that I have hired and worked with who are always considerate of my perspective will have my business (and my enthusiastic support) forever. I am huge brand cheerleaders for them now, not only because they're amazing - but also because they are rare! Listening lets you stand out.
Always ask yourself when you write an email to someone, are you anticipating what the other person wants to know or is expecting?
Make sure to take great notes on anything you'll tell someone you'll do (send a proposal by 5, have a call at 3pm, etc.) if your plans change - you start with an apology and acknowledgement of the plans changing.
The bottom line is to write from a considerate perspective. If you are worried about assuming too much, just ask a thoughtful question. Asking questions is also great because it shows you care about the answer and are taking an interest.
New Website Reveal: Listen First Project
I was inspired today to talk about the business side of listening thanks to a new website I completed as part of my role as the VP of Brand for a non-profit organization called Listen First Project.
The organization (also known as LFP) was started by Pearce Godwin and it is a non-profit advocacy group that facilitates greater understanding, respect and cooperation by encouraging the timeless but abandoned practice of listening to each other, regardless of any distinction. In short, LFP believes in the power of listening to transform our discourse and change the world.
I developed Listen First Project’s brand and logo when it first launched in 2013, which you can read more about here. The logo itself actually requires that you “listen” by doing a visual double-take.
Two months ago, I upgraded Pearce’s initial Blogger website. Leveraging the brand I created, I put together a professional website on Squarespace to cleanly present the organization online.
Here’s the first website (on Blogger) - viewable online here:
And here’s the new website that I strategically wrote and designed (on the Squarespace platform)- viewable online here at listenfirstproject.org:
I encourage you to scope out the before and after. Even on this new site, I thought about listening in the design - making sure the new look was simple and multiple resources that would address various readers' needs.
I hope you enjoyed this and that this inspires you to find new ways to make listening a new and powerful business skill!
PS: If you might need help with branding, copywriting, a website, or more - as mentioned in this post, I host free 15-minute discovery calls. You can request a free discovery call here anytime you’d like. I'd be happy to hear (and listen) to whatever your business/professional need might be or help you if you need help pinpointing it!