We’ve become a planet of broadcasters.
From Snapchat to Instagram, Twitter to Facebook Live, communicating our thoughts, viewpoints and opinions – however random or revolutionary – has never been easier. With the simple tap through an app on any of our devices we can reach millions of people around world 24 hour a day.
But does that actually make us better communicators? Does speaking up (or out) whenever we want make us more effective leaders at home or in business?
The world’s most successful and iconic business leaders think not.
“Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak,” writes Virgin founder Richard Branson in this famous LinkedIn post.
“The ability to lock in and listen is a skill that has served me well in life,” Branson adds. “Although it seems to be a dying art, I believe that listening is one of the most important skills for any teacher, parent, leader, entrepreneur or, well, just about anyone who has a pulse.”
The billionaire businessman, who has founded more than 400 companies under the Virgin brand, credits his massive success to his uncanny ability to listen.
“You never know what you might learn from simply listening to the people around you,” he writes. “Whether it is an attendant on a train, an engineer beneath a spaceship or a customer service rep at a computer, I am endlessly surprised by what new and useful information I can gather just by keeping my ears open.”
Why It’s Important To Be A Good Listener
Aside from being good etiquette, listening gives business owners a real competitive advantage.
Bob London, founder of Chief Listening Officers, spoke with me recently about how companies undermine their marketing efforts when they refuse to engage directly with their prospects.
“There is zero chance…that you can come up with the answer of what the customer really wants and needs unless you go out and talk to them,” London says.
And then, he adds, “Just listen. Just go out and listen.”
Here are just a few ways that deep listening can help you remain competitive and relevant.
Gain Insight And Understanding
Actively listening allows you to learn new and diverse perspectives, viewpoints, theories and information that perhaps you didn’t have access to before, and that could be applied to your business and life.
“It is a big universe, and we are all learning more about it every day,” says Richard Branson. “If you aren’t listening, you are missing out.”
When customers feel heard, they are more likely to feel valued and trust that a company has their best interest at heart. Companies that take the time to understand the needs and desires of their target markets – and then act on those insights – don’t just create good will, they create customers for life.
Good listening skills not only reduce costly mistakes, it can prevent potentially dangerous ones. When an employer or employee not only hears what’s being said but it well, they are less likely to make mistakes that can cost a company time and money.
Reduce Conflict, Fosters Teamwork
As companies become more globalized and teams become more diverse, differences inevitably arise. Some cultures are accustomed to having people talk at the same time, while others barely speak up. These cultural patterns impact listening behavior.
As a result, finely-tuned listening skills are not only important, they’re vital to the health and success of an organization. Teams are able to operate better, more efficiently. And there’s less chance of tension and conflict when employees have the chance to speak – and listen – to each other.
Competitive Advantage In Business
Early on in his career, Branson founded Student magazine which required him to hone his communication skills, especially the ability to listen intently to what others have to say.
“I sometimes come across people in business, especially if they have been fortunate enough to have some success, that are very fond of their own voices,” he writes. “After saying their piece, they visibly switch off from what others are saying…rather than making eye contact and really engaging. Conversely, the most successful entrepreneurs I know all have excellent listening skills in common.”
If you are not listening to your customers, don’t be surprised when they stop listening to you.
It’s Your Turn
How has actively listening contributed to your success with customers? Share in the comments or on social media.
Read More: www.forbes.com