Listen, because nothing you say is as important as what you will hear. Social Media consultants, here are five reasons to listen up.

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 consultants, we are considered the “experts,” the ones who have the knowledge. And that can be intimidating.

We forget that clients have their own worries, concerns, insecurities. They just want to know you understand their situation, their reality. That you are listening, not jumping to solutions.

2. Listening saves time, money and frustration

In business, meetings can be a major time suck. Meetings are probably among the top resource drain in corporate business – because no one has to literally pay for them.

For consultants, time is truly 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.

Taking time to reconfirm understanding on strategy, direction, priorities and more will save clients and consultants time, money, and frustration.

Image of book cover: Smart Questions by Dorothy Leeds

I highly recommend a wonderful resource, Smart Questions by Dorothy Leeds. Among the takeaways outlined in my book review are the skill – and reward -associated with asking good questions, and knowing how to listen.

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 because the “Social” in “Social Media” is for a reason

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.

In The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don’t), Sean D’Souza looks at how listening  can make or break a sale. (See D’Souza’s web site for in-depth info, bonus offers and more.)

Most consultants tend to focus on our solution as the solution, he says.

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 a solution.

Once you have established this rapport, presenting “the solution” (which very well may be the one you were initially focussed on) becomes “our solution” – one you reach together.

You and the client now share ownership.

From my experience, shared ownership encourages a higher level of commitment and mutual respect. So your project starts strong, and is much more likely to end in mutual satisfaction and success.

Satisfied clients are happy to give you testimonials, and refer other businesses to you.

Anybody listening?

Please share your thoughts, insights and experiences.


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