The Key to Better Communication Starts with Listening

A colleague was recently sharing with me a challenge that she was having with one of her clients. She felt that every time they talked, the conversation would go round and round without any productive conclusion. After listening to her for a few minutes, I introduced the following communication technique that I have found useful in similar types of situations.

1. Listen
The quickest way to end all chances of productive two-way communications in business is to start by arguing your point of view. Instead, start by listening. When you do, you will not only better understand your client’s point of view, but they will also typically reveal what it is they want. Good business is all about good customer relations. By satisfying needs and wants, both parties win.

2. Don’t Get Personal
In business, the communication exchange is about an equation – not about you personally. The equation includes at least two elements: satisfying the customer’s wants and needs, and doing so at a profit. Remaining focused on achieving these elements will help you to remain objective in ways that lead to a win/win for both parties.

3. Validate
Having listened to what your customer wants and focusing on the win/win (instead of who’s right or wrong), the next step is to find a way to acknowledge the other person’s point of view in a positive way. You might respond with “that’s a valid point,” or “thank you for taking the time to explain what you’re looking for.” You could also introduce what it is that you understood them to say in your own words and then ask them if this is correct. Validating what they say in these ways demonstrates that you are listening and that you care. As a result, they will be more open to what you have to say in return.

4. Engage
By establishing a foundation where your customer feels listened to, understood and validated for their views, you now have an opportunity to engage them in a solution. This can be a key element to a win/win outcome because you both now have an opportunity to participate in a solution instead of arguing whose view is more relevant. The process of engaging facilitates an active two-way exchange where both parties introduce and build upon solutions for achieving the win/win outcome

5. Act
Having invested the time and energy in developing a two-way rapport – and a better business relationship – you are now ready to implement the agreed upon solution. Depending upon the nature of your business and the complexity of what you offer, this may include writing up a contract or simply delivering the finished goods. Either way, be sure to follow through promptly and fully.

6. Add Value
This last step is an option and, once again, depends on the complexity of the business situation and desired outcome. It is an option to add a little something extra that the client may not be expecting to further show that you value their point of view and their business. It may be as simple as a hand-written thank you note or something more tangible. Either way, the goal remains satisfying and retaining customers, and maintaining profitability in the process.

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