On a recent visit to a client of ours I got talking to the CEO about the importance of listening. He said customer service/business relationships come down to 2 things: listening and problem-solving. That’s it.
After letting that quote sink in for a while, it began to strike a chord with me because of how simple it can make business philosophy. Listening and understanding perspectives from the client/customer helps you better solve problems on their behalf. This is how you stay valuable.
If you’re not a natural listener then consider the following 6 ways being a listener can help your business thrive:
The rule of 51:49 – How to Stay Valuable
One of the best ways to stay valuable is to live by the 51:49 rule popularised by business leaders such as Gary Vaynerchuck. Broken down it means, whatever the relationship, always give more value than you get.
Adam Grant is another advocate of this approach in his bestselling book Give and Take. He demonstrates how those that always aim to contribute to others achieve extraordinary results across industries. Call it karma, value, whatever, but the 51:49 rule is a fantastic way to approach business and build long-term value.
Take a business meeting for example. When you end up interrupting and talking 60% of the time, your clients don’t feel valued. Always give them the first opportunity to talk, and for longer, that way they provide all the information you need to understand their pain. Don’t try and sell something that doesn’t make their life easier.
The Power of Questioning
When you’re in the habit of listening you naturally become a fantastic questioner. As you guide conversations with questions rather than long-winding statements you can open up new ways of thinking and create opportunity.
Tim Ferris, in his book Tools of Titans, notes how many successful billionaires, icons and world-class performers have mastered the art of questions. In this case – absurd questions. Peter Thiel likes to ask – how can you achieve your 10-year goals in 6 months?
Yes, that’s absurd, but it can lead you to shatter your current dogma and innovate at a level you previously thought impossible. The same is true for your clients, customers, and staff.
This is a fairly obvious point but there are many executives, or founders who simply ignore the thoughts of their staff. Even in big organisations, there is still valuable information at every level – even reception staff or the part-time intern.
One of the most successful advocates of listening to staff members was the great Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. Sam would walk the halls of his department stores and regularly listen to the concerns of his employees. This was one of his guiding principles in business.
When Sam was still around Walmart was considered one the best places to work with surprisingly high levels of staff engagement.
Long Term Relationships
They say constant communication is key to every long-term relationship whether it’s business or romance. When you’re willing to listen you help sustain positive communication in the long-term.
A great analogy is to think of your relationship with your dog. They can’t speak. All they do is listen. But how much do we cherish our pets just for the fact they are there for us enthusiastically and with a smile every time?
You want to be the dog that’s there for their owner (client or customer). That way all the worldly treats and rewards will start to come your way!
Only when you’re prepared to listen can you start to solve problems. Listening and asking the right questions helps you dig deeper with more information at your fingertips. Many believe listening to be the most underrated skill of management and leadership.
By identifying all the stakeholders who have some involvement with the problem or issue you face, you can use active listening skills and good questioning techniques to gather as much information as you can.
Encouraging a culture of listening, input and sharing ideas is a great way to develop a culture of innovation in your business or startup. Like everything, culture starts from the top.
Co-created by Cameron Kennedy