Listen and Learn

Just recently, I was at my friend’s barbeque and they had a fire pit. Because I live in the city, I don’t normally have access to a pit like that. So, not wanting to let this rare opportunity go to waste, I decided to enjoy it as much as I could. I claimed my spot right up next it, watching the flames dance and the smoke fade into the darkness.
Even though I was entranced by the fire, I still like to chat with people around me, so I turn to the guy sitting next to me and say, “I love these fire pits!” He shared that he loves them too, so I asked if he had them in his town. He said yes, so I looked at his wife and asked if she’d buy him one. She made a couple excuses as to why she wouldn’t, which is when I turned back to him and asked why he didn’t just buy one himself. I could tell by the way they were both acting that I hit a nerve, so I immediately backed off.
Still wanting to make some type of conversation—we were sitting next to each other, after all—I asked him about his hobbies. His eyes lit up and he shared how he loves learning about Jewish history. As we talked further, he became so engaged in talking about Israel and the Prophets that it was abundantly clear that this was something he was super passionate about.
At a pause in the conversation, I asked him how his love for Jewish history related to him. He responded how he aspires to be like some of Prophets, how he’d love nothing more than to be at their level. All in all, we had a really nice conversation, but then it kind of petered out.
Later, when I was leaving the barbeque, the man came up to me and said, “That was a great conversation. Thanks so much!” That’s when I realized that, it didn’t matter so much that the conversation grew awkward at the mention of the fire pit, this guy was just happy to feel heard.
This is a fundamental need for most of us and, in order to meet that need for him, I had to go in on his level. It wasn’t about me or my agenda. If I wanted him to open up, then I needed to meet him wherever he was.
Isn’t this true in business too? It isn’t about how great you are or the countless ways you can improve your client’s lives. It’s about them. It’s about their struggles, their needs, and their desired results.
To figure this out requires that we listen to the things that bother our customer base. The things that keep them up at night and the things that make them work all day. It’s about finding a way to let them know that you hear them loud and clear, that you’re willing and able to meet them right where they are.
Too often, businesses want to get their client base to meet them where the business is. However, this just doesn’t work. It’s not a good fit because the business is either steps ahead or behind where the customer is and he or she can feel it. This stops them from taking that step of pulling out their hard-earned cash to buy the product or service. They won’t do it because they don’t feel the connection. They don’t feel heard.
If you own your own business, one way to change this is to ask your customers the critical questions. What do you want? What do you need? What about the product or service interests you? What would you change if you could?
And when they respond, listen. You may just find that they’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to make your business stronger, bigger, and more resilient. It’s right there for you; all you have to do is hear it.

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