Updated: Sep 18, 2020
One of the greatest skills in human interaction is the ability to listen.
I was at a networking event recently in downtown Minneapolis. A small group of business owners were standing and talking together. Each one was sharing about their business, asking and responding to each other’s questions. It was beautiful.
One person entered the circle and blurted out, “Hi everyone! Sorry to jump in, but this is a networking event, so I just wanted to share with you all real quick what I do...”
This person launched into a three-minute pitch, handed out business cards and walked away.
Those of us still standing in the circle were stunned. Yes, this was a networking event. Yes, the goal was to promote our businesses.
So, why did all of us feel like something bad had just happened? You guessed it. They didn't take the time to listen to anyone.
Listening is critical to your business because it communicates value.
Here are 3 listening skills that will grow your business:
1) Keep your motivations in check
Your first mission is to understand your potential client and their challenge.
When you hear a potential client has a challenge with their bookkeeper, do NOT immediately try to pitch them on your bookkeeping services. Take a moment to dig deeper - have you learned what kind of business they have? Who is currently providing bookkeeping services? What specifically is their challenge?
It could be that they recently hired a new bookkeeper and are having trouble with online access to a remote server, which means their challenge is technical, and not specifically related to bookkeeping.
So, keep your motivation focused on truly understanding what the customer needs.
2) Ask clarifying questions
Don’t move on until you are sure you understand what the client is saying.
To know if you have heard someone correctly, you can use sentences like, “you said "X" earlier, and I just wanted to see if "Y" was true as well?" Or, if you are not sure what to ask, simply say, “could you tell me more about that?"
Our natural first response is to bring a solution to the stated problem. We try to “sell” our solutions WAY too early in the conversation.
When we have someone sharing about a challenge or a problem with us, this naturally stirs up some emotion in them. Explore that emotion for a moment. Don’t jump to a solution.
The best way to validate your customer’s challenges is with their own words, “yeah, I can see that your bookkeeper not having access would be frustrating”. By making this statement, you will unlock a new layer of their challenge. They will usually respond, “yes - AND…the hardest part is that the bookkeeper is the owner's nephew and I don’t think he knows what he is doing.”
Now you have an understanding of the actual problem, you know who the true decision-maker is, and you can offer an appropriate, actual-need-fitting solution.
Do you offer training for do-it-yourself bookkeepers? This might be a great solution to this problem! It will not only solve their challenge, but it will create a relationship with the company that could turn into more business in the future.
Of the three listening skills covered, which one is the most difficult for you? Which one comes most naturally? What steps can you take to improve your listening skills?
Amy Lynne Coaching is located in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN and works with solo entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them reach their goals.