Turn active listening into a competitive advantage
It was a great day. We had just emerged victorious in one of the biggest pitches in SWBR history – winning the DeWalt Power Tools account. We were thrilled to gain the business over so many outstanding competitors, so we naturally asked why we were selected. One of the reasons, we were told then, is that we had shown to be exceptional active listeners during the review process which included a campaign proposal.
Admittedly, this was the first time –about 20 years ago – that I really thought about how essential listening is to success. Sure, I’ve long heard people call out folks for not being good listeners, but now I’ve been enlightened by a competitive advantage that frankly seemed like a behavior as intuitive and automatic as breathing.
But it wasn’t until I began to think about this further and more readily observe people in all walks of life, that I realized how rather rare this skill is.
What can active listening do for you?
If listening is advantageous, what exactly is the benefit? Well, I believe there are several. First, it’s just good and proper etiquette. Someone is speaking, sharing an opinion, fact or observation and they hope and expect that you will provide the courtesy to receive and understand their comment. And then your response establishes the active listening stage where you show affirmation of the message received and you can meaningfully affirm, build on or challenge.
Occasionally in meetings, people spend too much time developing what it is they want to say at the risk of not listening to others. Giving people the courtesy to hear them will only boost the potential that they will do the same in turn.
Also, we never learn when we’re speaking, only when we’re listening. Think about this during your next meeting. Imagine the collective knowledge of each person, and the sheer knowledge and experiences the group shares that has not yet made it into your brain. It’s pretty inspiring when you think about how much we can learn so simply.
Another benefit to good listening is that it ultimately leads to better decision-making. Clearly smart decisions are best formed when you know all the facts and have a good sense of how your determination will affect all parties. That’s certainly more achievable when you listen and understand not just what people are saying, but how they are speaking. Good listeners use their eyes as much as their ears.
We’re “hear” for you
I’ve found that those with intellectual curiosity have attuned listening skills. That’s common throughout our company; we thirst to know as much as we can about the brands we work for, the products they make and the way they go to market.
That has led us to ask incisive questions. When you work with SWBR, we’re going to take this highly active interest in your business and we’ll listen intently to your responses. While it’s not exactly “60 Minutes,” it’s just as interesting to us!
Let’s get back to the comment by the folks at DeWalt. As I later learned, they based their assessment of our listening skills on two events. First was our immediate understanding of their corporate culture and brand personality based on two briefing sessions. That’s crucial for SWBR as the agency becomes a conduit between our clients and their customers – and authentically representing that relationship means everything if we’re going to succeed.
They also liked that we listened to their end users by visiting job sites and speaking with contractors. This is a very discerning group, and we leaned in very carefully to understand their day-to-day challenges and ambitions.
Listening continues to define us
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we listen so intently that we never speak – we do! And it’s quite remarkable how much more intelligent and insightful we sound when we let others first share what’s on their mind and we then seek to contribute to the conversation. After all, we’re in the problem-solving business and whether you need to grab more market share or generate more leads, the more we know and understand, the better partner we can be.
In the 20 years since we were first recognized for being good listeners, many of us at SWBR have received that same compliment from other clients. Only now we’re more cognizant of the inherent value of active listening. We’ve made it an essential part of our own brand promise and we’ve been able to surprise clients who have told us how they formerly thought that agencies never listen.
I appreciate you allowing me to share my observations. And to think, all this time I had wondered why we have two ears but only one mouth.
Thanks for listening!
If you’d like to explore a relationship with SWBR, please contact us online and we’ll get started right away on active listening.