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Learning to listen.

January 26, 2019

In the spirit of transparency , I hope you like this clip art. I spent $2.99 on it. 

 

 

When we get too busy we forget to pause and reevaluate methods and make needed changes. It’s normal, I know. Sometimes I go too fast and forget to listen.

 

For the past (almost) ten years I've been responsible for new business development at Bumbershoot PR. Or, you know, sales. 

 

The following scenarios have played out so often for me over the past ten years as a business owner. The evolution from versions one to two to three show how the client's response eventually changes when I finally stop to listen.

 

I have to wonder how this will continue to evolve into its fourth, fifth, sixth iterations, and beyond?

 

Here's how it usually happens. 

 

Scene One:

 

Potential Client: We want you to do PR for us.

Me: Great. I want to do PR for you!

Potential Client: Can you put together a proposal?

Me: Yes. But before I do, do you have a budget in mind?

Potential Client: Nope.

Me: Okee dokie!

[A week passes.]

Me (proudly): Here is the proposal I worked very hard on for you!

Potential Client: Whoa. This is twice as much as we were hoping to spend!

Me: So you did have a budget in mind, you just didn’t tell me?

 

Okay. That never worked. Something needed to change. So  I implemented a little tweak:

 

Scene Two:

 

Potential Client: We want you to do PR for us.

Me: Great. I want to do PR for you.

Potential Client: Can you put together a proposal?

Me: Yes. But before I do, do you have a budget in mind?

Potential Client: Nope.

Me: Are you sure? I know a lot of people say that but then I come back with a number and it’s kind of a sticker shock moment.

Potential Client: I have no idea. Let’s just see what you come up with.

[A week passes.]

Me (proudly): Here is the proposal I worked very hard on for you!

Potential Client: Whoa. This is twice as much as we were hoping to spend!

Me: So you did have a budget in mind, you just didn’t tell me?

 

Oh no! Same result.

 

I have to admit I was surprised when plan #2 didn’t work. Ultimately the problem wasn’t that they needed me to tell them more. They needed me to hear them. I wasn’t listening. I was trying to control the situation based on the knowledge I already had. But they had more knowledge and it was my responsibility to get it from them.

 

So recently I’ve added in one more layer. Yep, listening. Listening helps create empathy. When you have empathy, you can be trusted. And guess what? It works.

 

Here’s what it looks like in the new, more compassionate version:  

 

Scene Three:

 

Potential Client:  We want you to do PR for us.

Me: Great. I want to do PR for you.

Potential Client: Can you put together a proposal?

Me: Yes. But before I do, do you have a budget in mind?

Potential Client: Nope.

Me: Are you sure? I know a lot of people say that and then I come back with a number and it’s kind of a sticker shock moment.

Potential Client: I have no idea. Let’s just see what you come up with.

Me: I know that's what you’re thinking, but really – a campaign like this can cost anywhere from $XXXX to $XXXX because it takes XXXX amount of time.  I know that sounds like a lot, especially since you’re at a point where there is no income coming in and you’re just spending. But if you consider the time I will spend and the results you can expect, I think you’ll find that it’s actually a quite good value.  

Potential Client: Oh. Yes, that is a lot of money. I had no idea what to expect. But okay. Sure. Let’s see what you come up with in the $XXXX – XXXX range.

[A week passes.]

Me (proudly): Here is the proposal I worked very hard on for you!

Potential Client: Thanks for understanding why I couldn't put a number on it originally, and then walking me through the process from my own point of view. This seems great. Let's get started! 

 

[scene]

 

Okay, so of course it’s not ever really that simple. What I am trying to communicate is that I've learned over the past 10 years that negotiations don’t have to be an “us v them” situation. Instead they can just be “us.” It can be an opportunity for both sides to hear from each other and to get what they want. All we have to do is listen. That’s when teamwork begins to take shape. And in my business you're going to have to work as a team so you might as well start off on the right foot, creating trust through transparency and ditching the manipulation of a typical sales cycle. Listen to your potential client, ask a fair price to do what you’re good at, and you get to help someone do what they’re good at in return! 

 

 

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