Listen more, talk less

Oct. 4, 2013
If you ask any one of my close friends or colleagues whether I have a tendency to talk less and listen more you’ll likely get a very convincing argument against the notion that I remain reserved in my opinion.

If you ask any one of my close friends or colleagues whether I have a tendency to talk less and listen more you’ll likely get a very convincing argument against the notion that I remain reserved in my opinion. I talk a lot when the subject interests me; there I said it …. “Hello, my name is Eric and I’m a recovering know-it-all…” While this may be true in the setting of a dinner party or backyard barbeque, I will stand up for myself and defend my listening skills when it pertains to business and interacting with my customers. If you aren’t listening more than you’re talking then you’re likely not being heard.

One simple change in behavior can greatly impact your sales, customer service and profitability: listening. Let me clarify. When a customer calls in need of service in their home or business they have already identified you as an expert in your field, they wouldn’t need you if they’d known exactly what the problem was and how to fix it themselves so this is your chance to be the true expert and professional needed to resolve the problem situation. For now let’s just assume you are the true expert, but can we also imply you’re the professional? Listening to what your customer is saying and asking for is what may be exactly what is needed to break through the barrier of bringing in more business, and I think it can be very easy to overlook the fact that it is easy to talk more than is needed in an effort to establish your credibility and ability to handle the situation.

My business offerings have me answering calls ranging from simple plumbing repairs and upgrades to very complex hydronic designs and installations. All of which have put me in front of clients who identified me as the expert in the room with a possible solution to a problem. In any situation we must remain aware of what we are saying and how much of it is necessary considering we were invited to the meeting based off of our qualifications. Being too technical in your language will likely result in the glazed-over attention span and interest level of nil, this in any situation projects a level of unprofessionalism beneath us as the established experts we are. Instead you and your employees must remain aware of the how much you are talking and whether you have listened enough.

Recognizing the key problems your client is experiencing and then identifying the possible solutions are the foundations of simple customer service, but it is in the presentation and delivery method used where many stand to lose a chance at selling upgrades or the job at all. Being concise with your explanation of how you are going to help them or the root of the problem is all that is needed for most customers. Using opening statements such as “In my professional opinion” and following up with easy to understand information will definitely have your client listening intently to what you have to say. When you have their attention in this manner you then can ask if there is a need for further explanation without having first gone too deep technically. The last thing we want to do is speak in terms that position yourself too far above your customer’s own knowledge level on the subject. Doing this is a sure way to lose creditability as the true expert you are. Loss in creditability is the fastest way to being escorted out the front door with no sales ticket in your hand.

As for my own issues with talking too much at the backyard barbeque I have this to say: Every group of friends has that one person who knows it all. If yours doesn’t then it’s you! Thanks for reading and sending e-mails each month. I am truly thankful for your support! I hope the next time you sit down with a client you’ll be cognizant of how much you are listening and that your professionalism remains strong in your dealings with those who have already identified you as the expert in the room. Good luck!

Eric Aune started Aune Plumbing LLC in 2004 and specializes in residential and small commercial hydronic heating systems and service. He is a graduate of Dunwoody College of Technology and Plumbers Local 15, Minneapolis Apprenticeship Training Program, and is currently a United Association Instructor and teaches for the Plumbers Local 15 JATC. Aune is also founding partner and vice president of Contact him at: [email protected].

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