The art of listening

When we have conversations with people we don’t know very well, say for example when you are introduced to someone at an event or even now perhaps when you meet new people online and you speak to them via video conferencing, or even when you speak to your clients; we tend to talk quite a bit about ourselves and our lives. We mostly do that because we might be afraid that the conversation will die or perhaps because you want to make sure they know all about you and your services.

Especially if the aim of the conversation is to sell your services, we tend to make the mistake to be selling to people which if you ask me is a total waste of time. No one will decide to buy your services after you have just done a 2-minute sales pitch, instead it is far more likely they will be annoyed with you and will ignore you in the future. I mean, think about a time you were approached by a sales person yourself, who just went on and on about his products or services. Did it annoy you? Did you lose interest? I certainly do.

Instead of trying to sell so hard, try to listen. Ask questions and let the other person speak. You will get a lot more out of the conversation and you will understand what this person’s needs are so that you can use that information at a later stage when it is time to come up with a solution for your client or prospect; which will then add far greater value to them.

How do you do that? I know it seems perhaps easier to keep on talking to avoid akward silences during conversations, but the effects of this are actually less desirable. And if you don’t like silence, try to ask a question instead to fill the silence. Whatever conversation you are having, I suggest you come in well prepared. And with prepared I mean that you fully understand what your client’s or prospects’ market conditions are, what challenges they may face, etc. You should be able to put a few questions on paper so that you know what to ask them. To keep the conversation genuine, make sure you always start with some general chit-chat, so ask them how they are doing, ask about the weather, talk about their family, school etc. Only when the conversation allows you to ask about business, you can jump in with some of the questions you prepared in advance. Make sure it is not an interview or interrogation but keep it sincere. Timing is crucial and also with timing it comes down to listening. You have to carefully listen to the person you are talking to in order to understand whether you can ask certain questions or if this is not the right time to talk about it. Never push for anything, feel if it is the right moment and if it is not, you will find a later time to talk about it. Try to keep the conversation on the track however, but don’t worry if it doesn’t go completely according to plan, you can focus on creating another opportunity to speak to your client or prospect.

Having these conversations are invaluable. If you are successful at client listening, you will be able to understand what your client’s needs and how you can best deliver services to your client in future to ensure you don’t annoy them or upset them. You can send hundreds of emails and newsletters with the very best intentions, but if this is not what this person is actually looking for and interested in, there is no point and you will achieve the total opposite: you will annoy them and you can guess what the result of that will be. Listen and you will see it will do wonders.

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