Some of the best conversationalists never say a word. We may leave our interaction with them thinking, “Wow, that person really gets me,”or, “Gee, they sure are smart.” But one thing’s for certain, we’ll never feel this way if we spend our entire time with them trying to get a word in. Or worse, if they talked incessantly and endlessly about themselves. Bor-ing.
So what makes an interaction memorable, and in a good way? The answer is simple—being a good listener almost always makes for a positive outcome. Abiding by a piece of advice my grandma gave me when I was a kid will improve anyone’s chances to seem both nice and intelligent. She said, “You’ve got two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.” Or, to put it bluntly, listen more and talk less. Put that in your tool belt.
When we ask good questions then ask more, we prove our expertise. This simple process creates credibility. And what can be said about someone who is credible? They know their stuff. Couple this with good listening and we start to develop rapport which, in essence, means we are likable. The magical combination of credibility and rapport is trust. Say this out loud ten times. Credibility plus rapport equals trust. Seriously, one without the other makes for a compromised foundation for the relationship.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where listening is a rare skill. All too often, we spend most of our conversations, including our customer interactions, deciding what we’re going to say next. We hear the customer say certain keywords and our well-trained retail brains start processing the forthcoming sale. Our “listening” is more of a rote behavior than a connected moment with the customer. This, friends, is a problem. And make no mistake, the customer is fully aware of our (unintentional) disregard for them as a human being. They may even feel like nothing more than a transaction. All this is happening while we are genuinely trying to be of service.
Yes, we deal with the same situations day in and day out, but we need to meet the customer where they are at that moment. We need to be in the moment with them and turn an otherwise mundane situation into something we are completely interested in (even if we aren’t). We need to show our customers that we are fully engaged in their needs and super excited to help them find solutions to their perceived and unperceived needs. Executing this well requires a conscious decision on our part. Especially at 4:00pm on a busy Saturday when we are hungry, exhausted, and ready to high-tail it home. The best, most professional, and wildly successful retailers listen with intention all freaking day long. They know there’s no room for excuses.