Archive for March, 2008

The Listening Chair: Wash, Snip and Tell

larger chairDo you leave more than just hair clippings behind when you visit the hair stylist?
“I’d like you to trim the sides, take an inch off the top, and oh yeah, you won’t believe what’s going on in my office right now…”

Sound familiar?

People share some of their most intimate secrets with perfect strangers. Often the equivalent of a psychiatrist’s couch, this “listening chair” opens the floodgate of personal confidences.

Perhaps we can learn a lesson about creating a “listening chair” for our customers.

Why do so many people loosen their lips while they get their snips?

According to Gordon Miller, the executive director of the National Association of Cosmetoligists, “In salons as a whole, hairdressers who don’t want their clients to tell them their troubles are as rare as those who believe in natural blonds.”

It’s the perfect recipe. Two people connecting, tuned out to their surroundings, with no interruptions, distractions or ulterior motives. Someone willing and genuinely interested in hearing your story without passing judgment and without an agenda. They just listen (cut, style and color happens at the subconscious level). When you sit down in that chair, the stylist wraps you with the plastic smock like a shield of security that implies, “I’m all yours. You have my undivided attention for the next thirty minutes – go.”

What lesson can marketers learn from inside the salon?

Great sellers are great listeners.

Dr. Stephen Covey describes “empathetic listening” in his book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Empathetic listening requires you to listen deeply, to really hear the other person. You listen, not just for what they’re saying, but for what they are not saying. You’re listening for what they are feeling. If you just listen to the words, you can miss something, something important, often critical.

Charlie Green, co-author of the Trusted Advisor, and trust expert says that often we listen for content. “Selling is best understood (and done) by anchoring transactions in the context of relationships—not by treating relationships as a phase in a transactional process…the value of listening is in disposing the client to engage differently.”  Here’s a thought. The listening process itself, can and should differentiate you from the crowd. Most sales reps are quick to give their opinion, share solutions and offer up suggestions without fully listening.

Empathetic listeners ask open ended questions, ask for clarification and validate the other person’s feelings. Once a point has shape and texture, they can “frame” it. Framing restates the essence of what the other person said, often times helping the customer to see the problem in a different light.

“So, you’re tired of dealing with a stack of invoices?” or “You’ve tried every conventional solution and now you’re looking to go in a different direction, am I on target?”.  Notice, there’s no judgment.

In other words, listen to understand, not to discover needs or figure how your product or service will “plug in” to what they’re saying. Instead, listen because you are genuinely and authentically interested in the relationship and not for personal gain. When you do, the customer will be willing to open up.

Do your customers feel like they’re in the listening chair?

March 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment


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