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The power of listening with intent

When you’re meeting with a prospect or customer, begin listening from the very first word.

Not when it gets interesting, when you think it’s going to be time for an important sales point to come up, or when you want to interject with one of your superstar questions.

Listen from the very first word to what the customer says. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

Why? Because certain things are going to come up throughout conversations you have with your prospects, customers, and clients. Things are going to come up that are pivotal to your relationship and the solutions that you can provide to your customers.

If you’re not listening from the very first word, then you’re going to have a hard time gauging where the client is coming from, gauging what the understanding is behind what they’re going to say.

When you listen from the very first word, it’s going to make things that come up later in the conversation a bit more evident. It’s going to make potential contradictions that may come up later stick out a little bit more.

So listen from the very first word. Go in there with the intent to hear. Plan to shut up and watch, look, and listen to the customer from the very first word.

Next point: Listen with the intent to understand. It’s important to hear the answers, the data and information  the customer gives you, sure. How many cases they want, what happened the last time, when they want the delivery. It’s important to take in all that.

But you also have to listen with the intent to understand what’s behind the information, not just the information itself. You see, what’s behind the information is their motivation, why they take action. And those are so, so important when you want to get to the heart of a relationship.

Unless you can really understand where the customer is coming from, you may not understand why they give you the answer. When you’re clear on both of those things, then you can offer solutions that are going to be much more relevant to their needs.

When you ask yourself, “Where are they coming from?”  then you’re really listening. This is the heart of empathy. Empathy is really putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, in the customer’s state of mind.

When you’re truly listening, you’re not really concerned about what you want to say, but concerned about what you need to hear. Remember, it’s the providence of knowledge to speak. Yes, it’s important to speak because of the knowledge you have, but it’s the privilege of wisdom to listen.

The privilege of wisdom, knowing that you have the wisdom to solve their needs, knowing that you have the tools to add value to the particular situation that they may be in.  It’s that privilege of wisdom to listen to them so you truly understand.

Photo by dorena-wm, via Creative Commons 2.0.