Listen up; you can accomplish a lot in your business just by listening. I have to admit that sometimes I am a bad listener. When introduced to a new person I often forget their name seconds later or just totally blank it out. The truth is I enjoy talking to new people. I want to know their story; what they do, what they enjoy, where they have been and where they are going. When someone is introducing themselves instead of listening I'm often thinking of what question to ask them first. Once the conversation gets going I'm a great listener and can often recall the smallest details. I realized a long time ago how important listening is in business. Just through the simple process of listening you can accomplish a lot in business.
Do you go to a networking event or sales meeting and go right into a pitch about yourself and what you do? Are you attracting new clients? Think you could be doing better? See how I started with three questions there? (Ok 4 now). You should try it too, the results might surprise you. When I was taking sales coaching lessons one of the first things I learned was to stop telling people about you and start asking questions, tough questions. Continue to ask your prospect questions until you get the real answer to the problem you are facing. Here is an example that I might face as a bookkeeper.
Me: So Mr. Business why are we here today?
Mr. Business: My bookkeeping is a mess.
Me: Oh ok why is that a problem?
Mr. Business: I can't file my taxes.
Me: I see, but taxes are a long way off aren't you worried about your bookkeeping today?
Mr. Business: No I don't look at it on a regular basis.
Me: What if proper bookkeeping could make you more money?
Mr. Business: Bookkeeping doesn't make money, sales do.
Me: True but how can you measure how sales are doing if you don't have up to date books?
Mr. Business: Hmmm.
Me: What if I could build a bookkeeping system that you could use as a tool to better run your business? Would you be interested in that?
In my example I asked a question every single time. All I wanted to do was show Mr. Business how I could add value to his business. I didn't want to appear like every other bookkeeper he has interviewed in the past, I wanted to stand out. Ask your prospects questions until you get to the real source of the problems they are facing.
Mentors And Superiors
If you are in business you may or may not have a mentor but you definitely have superiors. Why wouldn't you want to ask for advice from someone that has faced the same business problems you are currently facing? Is it because you are too proud? You know all the answers? I think many small business owners are afraid to ask for help because they think that they would be a bother or that they would get charged an astronomical amount of money by a consultant. In my experience successful business people are more than willing to give you free advice if you just ask for it. You may get advice at a networking event, a business presentation or in a one on one meeting. When good advice comes along from someone with a proven track record of success be sure to listen up.
Your current and past customers can provide a wealth of information to help you run your business better. Do you ask your current customers if they are happy with your service? Are there any ways your services could offer more value to their business? Listening to your current customers can really help you to meet their specific needs and become a valuable asset. Now what about those past customers? When you lose a customer do you ask why they are leaving you? Sometimes a customer leaving is not a bad thing but if it happens often you are probably doing something wrong. Learn from your past customers by asking them what you did wrong. If you could have done something differently maybe you should adjust your services so that you don't make the same mistake in the future.
Employees can offer very valuable information to help your business succeed. I always tell our employees to bring suggestions or comments to me regarding anything business related. The worst case scenario is that you disagree with them and don't act on their input. However, I almost guarantee you that if you establish an open sharing relationship with your employees that at some point they will come to you with a great idea. Asking your employees how it is going with a particular client or just with work in general can reveal some good information. Maybe you need to make some adjustments to the service you are providing or find a new role to help challenge your employee.
Listening can be a very powerful business tool. Listening to your prospects, mentors, customers and employees is important and can really help you run a successful business.
Are you a good listener? How has it helped your small business?