I tell my kids all the time that there is a difference between hearing and listening. They look at me like I’ve lost my mind and that’s ok. I probably have lost my mind, but not because I believe there is a difference between hearing and listening. Allow me to explain my theory.
Hearing, by definition, is to perceive sounds. That’s all. Perceiving sounds. Does perceiving sounds give you any insight as to what someone is telling you? No. That’s where listening comes in. Listening, by definition, is giving attention to sound. It’s going a step further than just hearing the sound. It’s also giving the sound your attention. So what does that mean exactly?
Assuming that you are not hearing impaired, hearing just happens. It is a subconscious act that you have no control over. Most of the time, you hear things without even realizing you heard it. It’s involuntary. Listening, on the other hand, is a conscious decision to pay attention to what you are hearing. Listening involves concentration. It involves processing. It’s voluntary. You have to choose to listen.
So how can knowing this impact your business? I’ll tell you. If you are just hearing your customers, you have no idea what they are saying. They are telling you what they want from you, but you are just perceiving sound. It’s not being processed within your brain. It’s not filed in the “News I Can Use” file of your brain. It’s just sound going in one ear and out the other. Once you start listening, really listening to your customers, you know what they want before they tell you anything. You know what they are looking for before they do. Do you know why? Because they told you. Your customer doesn’t have to tell you that they want a silver locket with a hinged clasp that they can put on a lanyard to hold their badge at work. They don’t have to tell you that they want the soccer ball charm and the blue stardust charms, or the “M” for Magnolia because that’s where their son plays soccer. You already know this because you were listening to them tell you about their son, Shane, that plays at soccer at Magnolia. You have listened to her talk about the ordeal of buying white polo shirts with navy slacks and getting them monogrammed with the red, white, and blue Magnolia emblem. You know what she wants in her locket because she told you without telling you but you heard her loud and clear because you were listening, not just hearing.
Listening involves taking in the details of conversations and applying them to future conversations. It creates personal connections. Listening, above all else, tells your customer that you get them, you understand them, you care about them. Listening to your customer tells you everything you need to know about them. What they like, don’t like, what makes them happy, sad, mad. It’s all available to you if you just listen to them. Really listen to them.
I have a challenge for you. I want you to stop and think about your customers. Do you hear them or do you listen to them? If you are just hearing them, how can you consciously make the change to start listening to them? How can you show them that you do care about them as a person not just a sale? I challenge you to change this one very simple aspect of your business and see what happens. I challenge you to really start listening to your customer and see what comes of it. What have you got to lose?