There are lots of smart people in marketing and sales, and oddly enough, that’s why communicating well can sometimes be difficult.
We hear a colleague or customer say something, and our brain goes to work and immediately makes assumptions, sometimes leading us to miss what’s really being said. It’s natural and I catch myself doing it all the time.
It’s especially tricky when you’re hired for your expertise in a particular area. Your focus is on delivering an answer. And sometimes that comes at the expense of not fully listening to and understanding the question.
At BrainRider we have the privilege of working with some terrific clients. One thing they have taught me is the value of listening to what’s being said.
As an example, a client of mine recently said: “We need to delay the sales collateral project.” What they were really saying was “I’m not sure the brief is working properly. The main message isn’t resonating yet. And I was hoping we would use more support statistics.”
If we had not built a trusting relationship where I had permission to ask more questions in order to understand what my client was truly saying, I could easily have assumed that the delay was their problem.
Here are three ways to be sure you are really listening to your customer:
- Start with the idea that your customer is right, not wrong. Pretty radical, huh? Don’t interrupt. Don’t jump in too quickly to prove your brilliance. Wait until they’ve finished making their point, then say, “Tell me more.”
- Remember – your first job is to figure out what your customer wants. (If you don’t know what it is, how can you possibly give it to them?) Often, they won’t say so directly. Be a detective first, an analyst second. Listen, think, and then make your recommendation.
- Three ‘why’s’ are much more powerful than one. Don’t assume you understand what the issues are the first time you hear them, or even the second – there’s likely still something lurking under the surface. Uncover it by asking simple, direct questions and listening. Be patient.
This takes practice and daily vigilance. The best part? It makes you and your customers even smarter, and builds a partnership that will last.