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It’s widely known that the most successful communicators are the ones who listen effectively. Yet so many today are listening only to hear for the break in the conversation that gives them their turn to talk. That is not a recipe for success personally or professionally.
An expert communicator actually listens with the intent to understand, not just to reply or respond . I call this listening with purpose.
As an entrepreneur the skill of listening takes practice and is not always intuative. The goal of a business is to reach as many potential customers as possible and share your message as many times as they’ll let you. This leads many entrepreneurs to craft their brand and their message based solely on what they want to say, not what they’ve actually heard from the marketplace.
I believe the listening deficiency that’s plaguing the entrepreneurial community stems from the massively overhyped idea of branding. We’ve all been sold the idea that branding is now the be-all end-all of any business.
A ‘brand’ should develop as a result of success, experience, and the feedback you get from your clients. It doesn’t work the other way around. Yet, if you scroll through your Facebook feed (maybe it’s just mine because I get so many entrepreneur related ads) everything is about building a brand and marketing it. When was the last time you saw an ad for an expert offering to help you “simply improve what you sell and deliver”.
I just spent several days with a new client that spent ungodly amounts of money and a disproportionate amount time crafting their brand identity prior to getting their product to market. Their hired guns had produced a fascinating ‘brand story’. There were a lot of perplexed faces when I simply reminded them, “Nobody is listening to the story yet”.
It’s a crowded marketplace for any business, product or service, and customer acquisition is not a foregone conclusion anymore. I’m sorry to inform you, but you can’t just build it and expect them to come.
It’s become clear to me that if you want your message heard, listening is your fist step.
I’ve struggled with this. As someone who speaks, presents, teaches, and tells stories for living, I’ve been very quick to jump into ‘look and listen to me’ mode. I inherently knew the advantages to effective listening, but the intoxicating effects of speaking and being heard would always take over.
So I spent some time with some incredibly successful entrepreneurs that I consider to be pioneering the “listening with purpose” movement.
By far the most impressive and helpful was Lewis Howes. I believe, amongst his other talents, he may be the best listener on the planet. When you hear his School Of Greatness podcast you are hearing a master of the listening arts. It’s why Lewis gets such depth and resonance from his guests. He’s not listening to their answers just to find an opening for the next question. He’s making a concreted effort to hear what his guests say and understand their perspective. The natural interaction is memorizing. I still haven’t found that flow on my own podcast because I find myself trying to produce the interaction and the interesting moments.
Lewis said to me in our first meeting, “People will tell you exactly why they feel a certain way, you can’t hear them if your first instinct is to tell them how you feel in return”. You can see the reason Lewis’ message of leadership and living with purpose is so powerful, it comes from listening first, and talking second.
Thankfully, after working with Lewis I’ve developed some simple techniques and key practices on how get the most out of my interactions.
Here are 2 specific exercises that entrepreneurs can use to immediately benefit from listening first.
1. Don’t discount the simple version.
Your clients or customers will give you feedback on their understanding of your business. Don’t mistake their simplified version of your message as them ‘not getting it’. What you are hearing are their core values. If that’s what’s resonating, you need to hear that perspective and embrace it, not spend enormous time and money trying to influence it or redirect it.
2. Let their solution be your solution.
We often get in the habit of telling the audience what their problem is and then how we can solve it. What you’ll find if you listen and engage with your audience, is that they will instinctively identify their problem and the solution they are actually looking for. If your client wants to tell you exactly how to solve their problem, you want to hear that. You don’t always have to be the smartest one in the room.
This is where a lot of entrepreneurs can’t help themselves. The are simply determined to be the one leading the conversation. Ironically, in our chaotic and attention starved culture, the ones who listen the most effectively seem to be ones making the most impact.
July 11, 2019 at 09:48AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs