A medical doctor recently asked me what I did for a living and after sharing about my role as a speaker and expert on influence and impact, he shared how he has become a better person—and a better doctor—by learning how to listen better. He spoke about not merely listening to the words being used, but listening to the individual. The difference between the two is significant.
Listening to words is not real listening. It is what I call hearing. Genuine listening means setting your preconceived notions aside, and choosing not to make assumptions based on what you know, or think you know. Real listening is the art of getting into your customer’s mind and understanding their point of view—what they are really saying. As a Sales and Leadership expert, I have seen repeatedly that this cycle of listening, understanding, and meeting needs is what closes sales and creates lasting customer relationships.
The doctor described his experience this way: “In my early years in medicine, when I spoke to a patient, I would ‘know’ within a few minutes what they were dealing with and go straight into diagnosis and treatment mode. I would cut them off, and tell them I understood. I no longer do that. I have learned to ask patients to continue so I can listen to their complaints, how it is affecting them, and all the impacts they are experiencing. Only then can I communicate to my patients in a way that will be powerful; only then will they listen to what I am saying.”
He continued, “I am relating better to my patients and others because I truly understand their point of view. This greatly increases their comfort level with me and helps them buy into my suggestions.”
When you understand your customer’s need and can offer a solution that works, they feel understood, which leads to trust and acceptance. Listening and trust are the building blocks of long-term customer relationships.
Do you want your customers to buy into your suggestions? Are you merely hearing your customers or are you listening to the particulars of their situation and what they are really looking for? The difference to you as a leader or sales executive is the difference between being viewed as a vendor and being viewed as a trusted advisor. Vendors come and go, but trusted advisors are in it for the long haul.
You’ll find more techniques on how to lead better and sell more in Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way.