Nothing helps small business people sleep comfortably at night like having a packed roster of loyal customers. And in future blog posts we’ll be talking about any number of strategies, tips and tactics for earning and maintaining customer loyalty.
But if I could offer just one tip to small business people for generating customer loyalty, a tip that would work for virtually every business in virtually every situation, I could do it in a single word.
Okay, right now you’re probably thinking that every single leadership session, every single management session, every single sales session you’ve ever been in has discussed the importance of listening. So why am I bringing it up again? Because, in spite of all that, it’s quite likely that more business problems are caused and more sales are lost by a failure to properly listen than any other single cause.
Let me tell you about a rough night I had a while back.
I was hired to do the opening keynote at the annual conference of a large corporation that will remain nameless. I’d also agreed to host a table at an awards banquet they were holding that same evening. It was a formal dinner, eight of us at the table, tuxes and evening gowns, more courses than I could count, impeccable service and my guess would be the food was excellent.
That would be my guess. But I don’t really know because I never had a chance to enjoy it. Because the woman on my right never stopped talking, not for a minute. Not for a second. She seemed like a very nice person, but everything in her head came pouring out her mouth in a non-stop torrent. So much so that even trying to focus on a single fleeting thought was like trying to drink from the proverbial fire hose.
I’m not exactly an expert on banquet etiquette, but my understanding is that you’re supposed to talk to the person on one side of you through one course, then when the next course is served, you turn your attention to the person on the other side.
Marilyn Monroe could have been sitting on the other side of, me, alive and jumping rope, and I never would have noticed. I never got a chance to turn that way, not even for a quick glance.
Still, all good things, and some not so good, eventually come to an end, eventually. And three weeks later when the meal finally finished, I dragged myself up to my hotel room, only to find to my horror that there was no mini-bar. And for some reason I really felt like I needed one.
Fortunately, there was a bar in the lobby. So I left my room, stumbled to the elevator and pressed the down button. The elevator arrived and the door opened.
And who was standing inside?
The mouth that roared. (Okay, that’s not charitable. As I said, she seemed like a very nice person. In a noisy sort of way.)
She and the woman she was with stepped off onto my floor, actually moving in my direction. I nodded toward them, leaped onto the elevator and just as the doors closed, I heard her say to the other woman, “You know I had dinner with him tonight. He’s just the most fascinating conversationalist.”
I never opened my mouth the entire night.
There’s nothing that will make you more fascinating to other people than listening to them. And few things that generate more customer loyalty.
Think about the times when people have really listened to you. I mean really listened. How did you feel about them? And weren’t you more likely to really listen to them when it was their turn to talk?
Think about the last time someone didn’t listen to you, and how you felt about that person. Particularly if it was someone you were considering doing business with.
And, while it may not be self-evident, this is certainly true:
Nothing you ever say is as persuasive as listening. Nothing.
Who is the best listener in your life? What have you learned from him/her? Share in the comments below!