Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
- Stephen R. Covey
We all know how important communication is. Well, I hope we do because most of us are really bad at it. We only find that out either when we have the bloated budget or end up with the customer who has a product that doesn't really do what they envisioned it to do.
In all areas of life, whether it’s in a professional or personal context, communication is integral to people understanding each other. Being able to listen effectively will help you communicate better with your client – and it will help you identify what they truly need from you.
For those of us that work in client-facing roles, developing our communication skills is important to ensure we provide the best support to our client. Understanding the difference between hearing and listening is essential to this. Hearing is generally passive – you’re hearing what people are telling you, but you may not actually take the information in and engage with it. Listening, on the other hand, is active and involves genuinely paying attention to what someone is saying, with the aim of gaining a real understanding of what problem we are trying to solve for them. Either creatively or in another way that we feel confident about.
Get Used to Making a Discovery.. For Your Client
When you start working on your ability to listen well to your clients, you’ll learn that providing the best work will depend on how well you interpret what the customer has said. Being able to listen to, understand and accurately interpret your client’s needs is a very important skillset to develop. In order to provide the best solutions to your client, you’ll need to listen carefully and pay attention to what’s being said as far as their current roadblocks or expertise they are seeking.
You need to ask the questions:
- What is it that stops you or your business from succeeding right now?
- What do you think I can do for you to solve this problem to improve the outcome?
- Are you open to new ideas or approach if I think it will help You?
Be mindful that what your client says they want is not necessarily what they or their business is actually in need of. Sometimes, clients simply don’t know what is in their best interest. Henry Ford, the father of the automotive industry allegedly once said, “If I had asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses”. As Ford so cleverly suggests, it’s possible to develop solutions that address a client’s needs better than what they think they need. We can distinguish between what a client wants and what their actual needs are.
Learn How to Say No
A client might come to you with a certain idea or request in mind, but as a professional in the field, you might know from experience that this particular idea would likely be a poor choice for the client. If this is the case, just hearing what the customer wants and providing them with what they requested isn’t offering the best service to them.
Learn how to be open and communicate if you think it's a bad idea or there might be a better way to do it. Be open and make sure to make the conversation open-minded, also.
Actively listening to what the client says they want and taking in their situation would give you a better understanding of what they actually need from you. This goes deeper than just accepting what the customer says they want, and focuses on identifying what their actual needs are and how you can best help them. As you can see, if you’d like to offer your client the best service you can, you might need to do better than just giving them what they ask for, and instead delve deeper into what their actual needs are through asking key questions, doing research in the relevant market and identifying the best solution for their issue.
Though trying to identify your client’s true need is important, you’ll also need to find a healthy balance between what the client wants and what you think is best. As a professional, helping the client understand what they actually need is important, but it’s also your responsibility to give them what they ask for if they don’t heed your advice. It’s ultimately the client’s call, and if the work you deliver doesn’t correspond to the brief they gave you, it goes without saying that most clients would be disappointed.