3 Things To Do When Listening To Clients
Listening is one of the most difficult things to do in business.
Actively listening to the words and thoughts of a client (or customer) is a discipline that very few people do well. Many assume that they know what their clients are thinking or looking for and prematurely interject their “expertise.” I’ve sat in too many meetings where clients are cut off by comments from consultants or advisors that really don’t add value to the conversation. In many of these cases, it leads to rabbit trail conversations that ultimately do not help to solve anything nor move things forward.
Active listening and processing of thoughts in real-time take a whole lot of energy and focus. When this is done well, it can open up a world of new insights and opportunities to better serve our clients. Here are 3 things that I try to focus on in conversation to stay better engaged with our clients:
#1 Talk less, ask more, and take notes.
Even if you’re a consultant or expert in your respective industry, you don’t have to know everything. In fact, you don’t know everything. In fact, in fact… (yes, two in facts) clients, who are closest to the actual problems they are trying to solve, often provide key insights that ultimately lead to a solution. Our role is to facilitate that discovery by talking less, asking more pertinent questions, and taking notes to understand the context, content, and potential pathways to innovation.
#2 Work towards understanding the hierarchy of thoughts driving perspectives.
Ideas are often built upon preceding ideas. Understanding how and why a client got to their current perspective is important to working toward a solution. Ideas don’t form in a vacuum. They may be informed and shaped by circumstances, world-views, organizational culture, physiological factors, past precedence, and/or reason (or irrationality). Actively listening for insights as to how a client’s thoughts are structured and which factors drive belief is very helpful and informs break-through solutions. This is where the magic happens and solution pathways emerge.
#3 Determine the “real job” to be done.
The problem a client is trying to solve is often a means to a greater end. Our company (Ideation) works with brands from numerous industries to solve problems through strategic innovation, but the real job we do goes beyond these projects. The real job that we want to accomplish is to make the person(s) we’re directly working with in each brand very successful in their careers by making them shine as linchpins within their company. We know that if we do our job well, we will help these individuals accelerate their careers and gain influence within their respective brands. The projects we help them with is a means to a greater end where both they and the brand wins in the end.
It all starts with actively listening…