We have all been there. The client meeting where, at some point, you – the social media consultant – stop listening. And likely, your client has stopped listening.
Ironically, you’re both probably thinking the same thing: “Is he/she listening to me?”
To borrow the famous quote from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here, is a failure to communicate.”
So social media consultants, listen up! Listen, because nothing you say is as important as what you will hear from your clients. And here are five reasons why.
1. Listening tells clients you care
Think of some of the best conversations you have ever had. You connected with someone. You felt validated. You felt you were heard. Because someone was really listening to you.
And that felt good, really good. Sometimes it is easy to forget that as social media consultants, we are considered the “experts,” the ones who have the knowledge. And that can be intimidating to clients, especially those who are new to social media.
We forget that our clients have their own worries, concerns, insecurities. They just want to know you are actively listening, not jumping ahead to solutions before fully understanding their situation and their reality.
2. Listening saves time, money and frustration
Meetings are probably among the top resource drain in corporate business, because no one has to pay for them. For social media consultants, time is money. For the client, especially small businesses and entrepreneurs, time is money. They are investing their time and also paying you. Listening saves time and money. And frustration for you and the client.
The bottom line is that coming away from a client meeting thinking you are on the page is far from confirming you are on the same page. This is especially true in phone conversations where there are no visual cues, only verbal ones. Even then, you can easily be mistaken.
Any good interviewer knows that listening can transform an average interview into a memorable one. Listening can take an interview into a completely different direction – one that uncovers an amazing story or observation. Listening also helps you know what questions to ask.
I highly recommend a wonderful resource, Smart Questions by Dorothy Leeds, a book I reviewed on Amazon.com. Among my take-ways were the skills and rewards associated with asking good questions rely on being a good listener.
The book was written for managers and dates to 1987, but I still find it applicable as a consultant, particularly Leeds’ advice to fit the question to the person based on their personality type (commander, convincer, carer, calculator), not only to get better results, but to help build better ongoing communication.
Plus, she suggests turning the tables by asking yourself questions regarding your own motivations and goals. Good advice for keeping it real.
3. By listening, you will actually learn something
Every interaction with a client I have come away with a new understanding, a new bit of information or reference that is immediately applicable or that can be stored away for future use. I have come to view impatience as an unwillingness to listen or learn.
And I’ve found I am not always aware until later when, like a little post-it note in my unconscious, the insight is suddenly available to me. Often it is when I am working with another client. How great is that?
4. Listen puts the “social” in “social media”
Next time you are enumerating to your client the opportunities social media offers businesses to listen to and engage with their target markets, remember that you are doing the exact same thing.
Listen and learn as much as you can from your client about their industry, competition, current and prospective clients, their unique selling proposition. Certainly, provide a framework to guide your discussion.
But let them talk. You have your expertise, your clients have theirs. Until you understand their big picture and their daily concerns, you won’t be in a position to build a valid strategy and tactical plan.
5. Listening is good business
Listening involves implicating your client in the solution. I am reading The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don’t) by Sean D’Souza. One of the first points Sean makes is about the role of listening in making the sale. (See D’Souza’s web site Psychotacthics.com for in-depth info.)
D’Souza explains that most often we consultants tend to focus on our solution as THE solution. His advice: Work with the client to come to a solution on one concern, then another concern. Show the client you are listening, not jumping to “the solution.” Once you have established this rapport, presenting “the solution” (which very well may be the one you were initially focused on) becomes “our solution” – one you come to together. You and the client then have shared ownership in this solution.
From my experience, shared ownership encourages a higher level of commitment and mutual respect. Not only does that influence the success of your project together, it will also contribute to the content and tone of client testimonials you receive. And be a factor in future client referrals.
Please share your thoughts, insights and experiences. I’m all ears.