WHEN CHANNEL PROS hear the term “communication skills,” they often think about developing the chops to speak effectively. Knowing how to listen, however, is equally important for developing good customer and employee relationships.
Much of the customer relationship involves problem-solving; the client has an issue they need your help to resolve. While asking a lot of questions is necessary to propose potential solutions, it’s also crucial to listen to what “the customer is listening for,” says Charlie Morris, a mentor for the Bucks County, Pa., chapter of SCORE, a national organization that provides education, resources, and consulting to SMB owners.
Are they listening to see if the proposed solution will boost efficiency at their organization? Is it increased revenue that they’re seeking? Or are they listening for how your solution will save them money? “[Channel pros] have to understand the intentions of their customer, and then align themselves with those intentions,” explains Morris, who previously worked in software development for 18 years before becoming a CTO.
Good listening skills can help you manage employees successfully too. Mark Goulston, a Los Angeles -based psychiatrist, executive coach, and author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, urges channel pros to sharpen their skills by asking trusted business associates or model employees to rate important discussions on the following:
- Did they feel heard (or, conversely, constantly interrupted)?
- Did they feel understood (rather than faced with someone making presumptions)?
- Did they feel valued (without having to assert their value)?
- Did they feel that you brought value to the conversation by providing support for what they were expressing––and possibly expanding upon it, rather than detracting away from it?
Goulston invites those skeptical of this exercise to review conversations in which they felt unheard, misunderstood, undervalued, diminished, or dismissed. (He also points out that the skeptics are often the ones who need this exercise most.)
“In other times, you might have pooh-poohed something that seemed soft, like listening,” he says. “But given the labor market––especially in technology, where people can find a job anywhere––you might want to make sure you don’t do anything that frustrates people. Because rather than their dealing with it, they’ll vote with their feet and go to another company.”