One of the most important things you can do for your business is going ‘above and beyond’ to create value for your clients.
Professional services are so often delivered in very unimaginative ways that have little difference to how the majority of practitioners deliver them.
So, the ability to deeply understand your client, help them realise more of their potential and, therefore, having them experience you as being different is essential.
Something valuable I learned is to optimise what you already do before bringing in something new.
This makes perfect sense, right?
And one of the things you can optimise very easily is the quality of the meetings you have with clients.
There are many ways to do this but one with a great deal of leverage is the skill of listening.
There is nothing that will build the utmost trust and improve results more than deeply listening, and yet how many excel at it?
When you meet with a new or existing client you can either talk or listen. Most people talk far more than they listen.
It was not until a few years ago that I begun to understand what is required to become an exceptional listener.
I have a friend who was born deaf. He has had lots of medical attention from experts and yet because of the nature of his condition he ‘listens’ through lip reading. It was considered that he could not expect to experience improvement in his hearing.
Then something happened that made a bigger difference to his ability to hear than anything ever had previously. He began to hear people more clearly and, whilst his hearing is still impaired, he can communicate significantly better.
So, what happened?
Whilst there is lots of advice in the business world on how to be a better listener, none of it speaks to the fundamental issue. In fact, the often prescribed ‘active listening’ is a hindrance to deep listening.
Your ability to really ‘hear’ what someone else is saying is entirely related to how much of your own thinking you have going on.
My friend had previously had a lot of deeply ingrained, habitual thinking that constantly droned away in his mind. On top of his condition the noise of his own thinking was also drowning out a lot of his potential to hear.
Once this thinking was gone he could hear far better because he had a clear mind.
Many people have developed the habit of an almost constantly busy mind. A common habit of professional people is to analyse whilst listening. Others get pre-occupied with how a meeting seems to be going.
The internal noise of our own thinking reduces our ability to hear what someone is saying and feel what is behind the words.
So, the most powerful way to listen is with nothing on your mind.
This takes practice. It is a big shift for many people, but can you think of something that has as much leverage to transform relationships as listening with a genuine desire to understand?