An entrepreneurial spirit requires you to lead. As a leader, you grow in confidence and learn how to efficiently delegate and assert yourself when necessary. It's easy to get caught up in the frenetic pace of business life and to feel like you don't have time to listen to people. However, listening remains an important soft skill that will help you relate to customers, employees and potential business partners.
Knowing how to be an active listener allows you to adapt to a variety of circumstances and builds trust and rapport between you and the speaker. People appreciate and notice when others pay attention and listen with empathy. If you want to be approachable and seen as a problem-solver, brush up on your listening skills. Here's why.
Demonstrate Courteous Customer Service
Your employees take on the task of daily customer interactions, but when a customer has a unique problem or becomes unruly, employees have every right to ask upper management for help. Nothing makes an irate customer happier than knowing they're speaking to the owner, and that's you.
The first thing you have to do is make sure you understand the customer and make them feel heard. That requires you to put your listening skills into action. You can calm down even the most frustrated customers by being a good listener, and it does not require you to let the customer walk all over you and automatically get their way. Instead, your goal is to let the customer know that you are giving your answer after fully hearing and understanding their problem.
On a lighter note, if you need to pitch in to help with customers during a busy period, your listening skills can help customers gain a positive image of your company and brand. Plus, you can demonstrate to employees exactly how you expect customers to be treated.
Zeroing in on Problems to Solve
As a small business owner, you have a lot of decisions to make on a daily basis. In fact, you're practically a problem-solving pro at this point. But developing your listening skills can take problem-solving to the next level.
That's because you have to understand a problem before you can solve it. Why is it happening? What's causing it? Who is affected and how?
You might have to talk to multiple people to piece together the full picture, and actively listening and asking questions will help you to gather all the details you need to make a plan of action.
Effectively Manage Employees
Want to create a work environment in which your employees feel respected and eager to do their work? Then make sure you listen to them when they make suggestions or ask questions. Feeling like they have no control over their job and no one to listen to their concerns can cause employees to feel demotivated and burnt out.
Instead, prioritize regular communication with your employees in which you use active listening skills to build necessary trust.
Applying Listening Skills to Social Media
Finally, you can also use your listening skills in a unique setting in what's known as social listening. This works best if you have a well-established brand that people tend to mention on social media. What are people saying about your company?
Reply to any brand mentions that you find, and also use the information you gather as an informal survey. If people are raving about your company, keep doing what you're doing. If people are upset about what you sell or how you handle customers, you should make some changes before your reputation goes south.
All in all, keep your ears perked and ready to listen whenever someone wants to speak with you, whether in person, on the phone or online. Aim to understand what they're saying before you offer your feedback, use open body language and avoid interrupting.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.