My colleagues and I write and talk all the time about having a message plan. And furthermore, we write and talk all the time about how strong listening skills can make your message planning stronger and easier.
But what do we listen for? Listening is great and important, and most people don’t do it very well. But is it enough just to decide to listen better? Can we be more strategic in our listening? We think so.
Let’s assume for a moment that you are meeting for coffee with an important potential customer later this week. And while you won’t be making your pitch over that cup coffee, you know that you will be making the approach sometime in the next few weeks. Any good salesperson knows that this coffee meeting will be an important step in the process, and that you will be begin building a relationship over that cup of coffee. But is that meeting about more than just starting off the relationship? Can we think differently, and more ambitiously, about that initial meeting and what our goals might be? Yes, we can.
Here is the powerful idea… Go into that coffee meeting with a listening plan. Think about the pitch you are going to be making a few weeks from now. Consider what you know already about that potential customer, and be honest with yourself. How much do you really know about their perspective, how they might feel about you, your company, your product? What other information do you really want to know about that potential customer? How are things going for them right now? What is she/he working on? What is his/her company focused on right now? What are they looking for?
Start by trying to figure out what you know and don’t know. And then craft a listening plan that will keep you focused on the parts of conversation that will fill in your knowledge gaps. Ask the right questions, and then listen carefully for the answers.
In addition, pay attention to facial expressions, body language, tones of voice… is there anything else you can learn there? In my experience, changes in facial expression, body language and tone of voice can often tell a lot. Do you play poker? Good poker players are always looking for a “tell,” a change of some kind that might suggest something important about the other player.
Your listening skills are a strategic tool in your ability to communicate. When we listen well, and strategically, we can have a better chance to understand our colleagues, customers and suppliers… and we have a better chance of finding common ground and connecting.
We believe that great communication skills change the world. We transform people and organizations of all sizes with simple, repeatable techniques, through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and asynchronous learning.
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