Introduction Listen First, Then Speak

“So what brings you in here to see me?”

That question is spoken countless times every day in doctors' offices, car repair shops, bank loan offices, law firms, and hundreds of other professional establishments. What usually follows that question is the customer's narrative describing their problem.

“My daughter is entering college next year, and I want to explore loan options for her education.”

“It's probably nothing, doctor, but I've been wondering about a small change I've noticed recently…”

“The engine has been making the strangest sound when I drive downhill. It all started right after I loaned the car to my brother-in-law, who said he used it to move his large collection of Civil War cannon balls.”

“I'm concerned that my cat has been pacing back and forth at night and making very loud howls.”

Listening is an essential part of any first meeting. It's how professionals learn about their customers' concerns, goals, and expectations so that they can present a relevant solution.

Yet in many organizations this one-to-one communication between marketing professionals and their customers is infrequent—if it happens at all.

How often do you have an opportunity to listen to your customers describe their problems? Do you know how to ask the questions that will make this conversation valuable for you and your customer? And most important, do you know how to apply what you've heard to become a more effective marketer?

The art and science of asking ...

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