If you pay attention long enough, you will realize that listening improves every aspect of life. I was watching Jeopardy last night with a friend, and the young man who is currently in the running for $100,000 made a memorable answer.
Alex Trebek asked him how he got to be so smart that he was able to compete in this championship. He said that he paid attention to the world around him so that he could impress people with what he knew. I was reminded of this just now in a coffee shop where I am working (Crossroads Coffeehouse). Crossroads roast all their own coffee, and a woman walked in to the store, her first time, and asked if they roast their own coffee.
She immediately began speaking about a friend who loves coffee from various places and from small roasters.
Listening Improves Your Brand
The friendly staff engaged her and listened to her descriptions. Do this in marketing, customer service, or sales and you will do well. Stop and listen. People will tell you what they love. People tell you what they hate. If you take the time to engage them where they are at, they will appreciate your business. Brand loyalty is built by companies that listen, and this was a key part of what made Apple the leading force of innovation between 2000 and 2010. They listened to customers and came out with products that they asked for.
Active and Passive Listening
Should your listening be active, or passive? I say that you need to engage in both. Notice the world around you, even if you are doing something else (passive listening). When the opportunity to truly listen to a customer comes around, quickly engage in active listening. When it comes to customer service, you might only get one chance to listen.
Slow your body and your speaking down. Mirror their body language if they are in person or video chat. Read their message out loud if they are texting or writing to you. When you are actively listening, you cannot be planning the next 4 month marketing campaign for your business. Be there with your customer, this might be the only time they talk to you.
Response to Customers
Sometimes a customer just needs you to listen. If that is the case, then just listen. Sometimes, the customer needs you to do something in response. Customer complaints are an opportunity to quickly improve the value of your brand. But, actions speak louder than words. Show you heard them by responding to them appropriately.
Sometimes a customer has a request that is too much for your business. It could be they violate your chosen boundaries (they demand you work on Sundays even though you said you don’t). It could be they ask you to step beyond your capabilities (asking a local print shop to do a run of 200,000 pamphlets). Either way, the best response is to inform them of the reason you cannot help them and then work with them to find someone who can help them.
This may seem like a sure way to damage your business, but people who feel respected will return the favor. If you take the time to make sure they have their needs answered, they will speak and think favorably of you.
Integrate Sales and Marketing
Listening to your market is a key pivot point in both sales and marketing. To learn more about listening, take some time to practice with your loved ones. Your friends and family will give you quick feedback on whether you are listening and responding to them. Also, it can’t hurt to listen to the people in our lives more.