This post is a continuation of a previous blog post, The Art of Listening. To read part one, click here.
2. The Importance of Feelings
You need to “listen” someone with your feelings. Inside your feelings are decades of personal and business experiences that have formulated who you are, what your morals are, and what type of person you want to have a business relationship with. Focus on how you feel when listening someone. Are you excited by their presentation? Suspicious of the things that they are saying to you? Uncomfortable for reasons you cannot quite put into words? Listen with your gut when listening someone. Listen someone by being attuned to how they make you feel.
In a meeting with the leaders of a company, I never start off talking about my firm. I always ask them about their company. At this stage, many of my competitors would go into sales mode and hammer a prospective client with a long presentation on how great they are and how they would be the best fit for you. Well, how could you know if they would be a great fit if you don't know them?
If you listen the leaders of the company, their responses will tell you if they are a good fit for you, and assuming they are, how to the present yourself to show them how you are a good fit for them. Or, as the sales gurus would say, how to close them.
The Right Questions
And I get this information by asking questions. And listening, as opposed to listening to, the answers. I watch for body language and changes in facial expression. I may interject something about the company that I learned from my research, or some experience that I had with a similar company. I will then listen how they respond. Do they smile? Do they squirm? Do they get upset? Are there long pauses between the questions and their answers? The questions that I raise are not just random questions. They are questions to determine whether this is an appropriate client for my firm, and if so, what do I need to say to them to convince them that we are the right firm for them.
My questions are also ones that are about intimate matters. So for example, I will ask them why are they changing CPA firms. What issues have they encountered with their CPAs that caused them to make this change? Why am I asking that? Because I want to make sure that I won't repeat the prior firm's behavior, and also to determine the value add I could inject that the other firm did not. I will listen how the leaders interact with each other. Is there one area that I should direct to one leader and not the other? What is the level of trust that exists between them? Does one like me better than the other, and accordingly requires more/less of my focus?
One of the key things in this process is not only listening their behavior, but listening to my personal reactions and feelings to their behavior. How do I feel in this interaction? Do I feel at home in their headquarters? Do I feel safe with them? Do I feel integrity when I interact with them? Do I feel they will honor my future invoices in a timely manner? Bottom line, also listen with your feelings.
To read part three of this blog, How to Create Intimacy with Your Clients, click here.
Richard Levychin, CPA is a partner with the CPA and advisory firm KBL, LLP, where he focuses on serving the unique needs of emerging businesses.