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Successful Consultants Are Great Listeners!

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Published:
May 25, 2022
Reading Time:
10 minutes
Leo
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

As a consultant, you can achieve a lot, just by improving your communication skills! You will be able to close more projects, sell online courses to aspiring consultants, provide massive value to existing clients, and rock presentations during client meetings. Truly, a silver tongue is worth more than gold.

However, inexperienced consultants often forget one very important thing. Listening is as important as speaking. Successful consultants know this, and they hone their listening skills throughout their careers.

In the following article, we’ll first put emphasis on the importance of speaking, which will be followed by four quick tips to become a great listener.

So, let’s dive into it.

Why to be a Great Listener?

The words ‘consultant’ and ‘advisor’ are synonymous. And the job of an advisor is to give advice. As a consultant, you will spend multiple weeks or even months collecting and analyzing data, and then offer recommendations to clients in the form of presentations and reports. However, this doesn’t mean that being a consultant is all about talking to people and telling them what to do. Successful consultants are also great listeners.

So, let’s discuss a few reasons why it pays to be a great listener when working as a consultant.


1. It’s not wise to make clients repeat themselves

Imagine this: Your client specifically tells you to not conduct focus group interviews because they have already done it in the past. They did not have much success with it. However, since you were too overworked that day to pay attention to everything the client had said, you end up organizing a focus group anyway! It’s a series of small events like these that build distrust and pushes clients away. Great listeners pay attention and get it right at the first attempt itself.


2. Not listening attentively could derail the entire project

Usually, consulting projects start with defining a problem. You need to break it down into smaller parts using the MECE principle, and creating a hypothesis. But before you move on to data collection and analysis, you want to make sure that you’ve listened to your clients carefully and know exactly where their problems lay. Climbing a high mountain is of no use if you have climbed the wrong one. Similarly, spending weeks and months solving a problem is futile if you don’t give the clients what they asked for.


3. Turning a deaf ear to customers’ requests will cause blunders

Let’s suppose a client hires you to help them with business expansion into neighboring countries. So, you conduct research on the market size and demand in those countries and present your recommendations to the client. Then, the client tells you that they need more data to make a decision. But instead of conducting a SWOT, PESTEL, or VRIO analysis. You just gather a little more data on market size and present a shallow analysis again. In this case, it’s likely that the client will resent you and stop working with you. So, open your ears and listen very carefully to what the clients are saying to be able to give them exactly what they want.


4. Considering client feedback carefully helps you close new projects

It’s not just about listening to clients before and during the project, you must also ask for feedback after the project is done. Successful consultants know how to reduce their churn rate, strengthen client loyalty, and enhance their services by asking for proper feedback. Ideally, client feedback should contain the following: What the clients did and didn’t like about your service? if it was worth the money;?and whether they’d work with you again? Once you understand these aspects of client experience by listening to their feedback, you can use it to score new projects.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A great communicator must hone the craft of speaking as well as listening.
  • Not listening to clients properly could result in project delays, client dissatisfaction, negative online reviews, and much more.
  • While listening to a client, first understand the emotions they’re feeling while they’re speaking.
  • If a meeting is scheduled to go for more than 15 minutes, you must carry a notebook and jot down important points.
  • It’s a good idea to meditate and relax before a client meeting.

4 Quick Tips to Become a Great Listener

There’s no doubt that successful consultants are great speakers, but they’re also great listeners. And now that you know why listening skills are as important as speaking skills, let’s discuss the top four tips for improving these skills.


1. Listen carefully and interpret the emotion of the speaker

Oftentimes, we think we understand what the speaker is trying to communicate and take action based on that. However, a lot could go wrong during the interpretation process. This could happen due to several reasons, such as cultural differences, language barriers, mode of communication, and a person’s mood on a particular day.

Here’s an example:

A client says, “Thanks for sending the initial analysis. I think more data collection may be required, but the deadline for this project is next week, so I'm not sure if this can be done.”

If you notice, the client is not really satisfied with your work, but there is no time for improvements as the deadline is near. The emotion here is dissatisfaction and frustration. So, your response should be, “I see you’re still on the fence with this one, and you want me to collect more data. If you could give me a two-week extension, we could send out more surveys and increase the size of our data sample.”

2. Listen, take notes, and repeat what you’ve interpreted to the speaker

Successful consultants do work on a lot of exciting projects and earn a high income. At the same time, however, they have to listen to so many people, including clients, every week. That’s why it really helps to have a notebook nearby, in which you can jot down notes quickly before you forget something.

For instance, if you’re on a phone call with an overseas client who has bad reception, you should keep a notebook handy. The same goes for any conversation with clients and colleagues that is going to go for more than 15 minutes. In such cases, it’s impossible for you to remember every detail. So, first, write down notes, and then repeat them to the speaker at least one time so that you’re both on the same page.

Successful consultants, Successful Consultants Are Great Listeners!

3. Put electronic devices away

This may not help you gain improved communication skills, but it’s just a polite thing to do. Nothing is more disrespectful to a speaker than a distracted listener. Giving someone your presence is one of the most rewarding gestures you could show. It’s understandable that in this day and age, where notifications pop up every ten minutes, it may be hard to concentrate.

But you’ve got to train yourself to resist the temptation of checking your phone while listening to a client. Because if a client is speaking to you, and you are losing focus because of phone calls and emails, it’ll make the client feel like someone else is more important than them. This, of course, is a big no-go. When a client is talking to you, give them all your attention and make them feel like nothing else matters to you during that moment.


4. Meditate before meeting

Is it just another eastern fad or does meditation really help you become a better listener? Well, according to research, more than 63 % of people suffering from conditions like anxiety and stress reported that meditation worked wonders for them. So, no, it’s not just an eastern phenomenon anymore, it’s worldwide, and it does help all humans.

As a consultant, it’s likely that you’ll work long hours and exhaust your brain really hard every day. But here’s the thing: If you’re stressed out or tired all before a client meeting, you won’t be able to fully understand what they want to communicate, and even if you’re actually attentive, your exhausted face will say otherwise. So, it’s best to meditate for 15-20 minutes before an important client meeting.

Conclusion

They say that humans have two ears but only one mouth for a reason—we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. Now, even though it sounds too philosophical for a highly logical industry like consulting, you could take it with a pinch of salt and grasp its essence: Listening is as critical as speaking. So, the next time you’re preparing for a client meeting, keep this in your mind!

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