Let’s be honest, selling the client and justifying our work aren’t the fun bits. The temptation is to rush those parts. Get what we need – the scope, timeframe and budget – then get on with the fun bit: the creating bit.
You know you’re rushing the early client interactions and talking too much if you are regularly getting requests for extra revisions, your client gives out-of-the-blue feedback (“I’m just not feeling it anymore.”), you are bounced around from person to person in the company, or your client never returns to pick up the final art piece or pay the sum of the commission. Oh, and you’ll feel incredibly frustrated.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The solution is elegantly simple.
We need to slow down and listen to our client.
I’m not talking about ‘Active Listening’ they tell you about on corporate training days: plastering a smile on your face, nodding more or repeating certain phrases back to the client to mirror them.
I’m talking about genuine listening.
Here’s the problem, though. Many of us aren’t very good listeners (I’m raising my hand here).
We don’t know how to encourage more information, how to tune in to the emotion, tone and unspoken elements, and we’re habitually distracted.
Listening instead of selling is not an easy switch but the rewards are worth it.
As the old adage goes: Listen to your client long enough and they will tell you how they want to be sold.
Listening yields deeper levels of trust, full disclosure from the client often revealing additional facets you can help them with, a clear understanding of the value you provide, and a better solution because you understand the problem beyond the surface details.
You will literally be top of mind for your clients because your brain waves sync up when you’re listening. That’s a lasting impression.
There are a few simple aspects to keep in mind when learning to listen:
1. Listen to understand not to respond.
Most people stop listening partway through the other person’s talking and start thinking about what they’re going to say in response. Instead, direct your full attention to the client until they stop speaking. Try to understand what they’re saying.
2. Ask yourself, “Why are they telling my this now?”
This will help you draw your attention to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. From there, you can follow your curiosity: ask for more context, understand the urgency, understand why this project is important to them, what they’re hoping to achieve.
3. Make the initial consultation about discovery, not about solutions.
Our instinct is to start generating initial ideas as we learn about the project scope. Sometimes, we create storylines of doubt and unworthiness that make us feel like we need to impress the client in the first meeting. Release these thoughts.
The only purpose of the original meeting is to understand the needs of the client: encourage them to elaborate, tell you more and give them your full, undivided attention.
We all need a bit of help when improving our processes – especially when we work for ourselves.
If you would like to review your onboarding process and get some feedback on your listening and sales conversation, reach out. I’d love to connect over a Breakthrough Sales Session.
Be Brave and Curious,