In almost any aspect of life, good listening skills are highly coveted. They allow people to feel heard, and in turn validated. In business, the ability to listen is even more crucial. By absorbing what consumers say, you have the tools to create something that the customer wants.
The Importance of Listening Skills in Business
Listening, and doing it without an agenda, is an incredibly powerful skill. You are able to find out a customer’s expectations, wants, needs, desires and even how they like to communicate. When you do all the talking you are pushing what you think, which can easily backfire. Customers often know what they want—all you have to do is listen and allow them the opportunity to communicate it. When you do, you’re telling the customer that they matter, they’re important, and that you are interested in what they have to say, which is essential in building a successful business.
Effective Listening Skills
Good listening skills don’t always feel comfortable at first, but the more you use them, the easier it gets. A few simple basics are all that’s necessary to demonstrate good listening skills to the consumer. The information you gain through honest and caring interactions is immeasurable in its importance.
Really Listen: Don’t expect to put on the guise of listening and tune out what is actually being said. Really listen, take in the information, pause and thoughtfully formulate your responses based on the information you’ve gathered. Going through the motions or sitting idly is not enough. Take notes if you need to. Even if you have heard the insights or complaints before, there may be a reason you are hearing them again. In essence, slow the conversation down so there is value in the interaction for both parties. It is also beneficial to listen in a distraction-free environment where you can focus.
Don’t Interrupt: If you constantly interject your own thoughts or agenda into the conversation you’re most likely going to put the customer off. It’s one thing to clarify or paraphrase to make sure you fully understand the conversation—it’s another to dominate it. Not everyone gets to the point quickly and succinctly. Let patience be your friend. Come from a place of empathy and avoid passing judgment or leaping to conclusions.
Listen to Body Language: Words are one form of communication, but body language is another. If you are meeting in-person, learn to read body language as well. It may convey something the customer is not saying. You can also pick up on whether a customer is interested in your solution or not. Tone of voice, how fast someone speaks, and other physical symptoms are also helpful indicators in assessing how a person is feeling.
Be Aware of Your Body Language: Use appropriate eye contact, and a relaxed and open physical stance.
Ask Questions: When it’s your turn to speak, use questions to gather more knowledge. Customers appreciate the right type of question because it allows them to talk about parts of the experience they may have forgotten to add, or lets them clarify and identify thoughts.
Businesses gain a wonderful advantage by incorporating good listening skills into their customer communications. It will help you create solutions that please customers and build a stronger business.