How to Conduct a “Customer Listening Session”

If you listen closely enough, your customers will explain your business to you.

Peter Schutz
Porsche CEO
1981-1987


 

Not listening to your customers?I assume that you already know and do not need to be convinced that:

  • Your most profitable sales and easiest growth come from existing clients.1
  • Unhappy customers are 5-20 times more likely to tell others about their bad experience than satisfied customers are to spread good news.2

A simple, high-return method of learning from your happy and unhappy customers, of knowing your customers better while making them more loyal to you is to listen to them. Customers are people and people love being listened to.

There are many ways to do this. I hope your (more…)

Recording Meetings and Podcasts

 


The problem is that consumer recording equipment is unshielded; cell phones, fluorescent lights, etc. radiate energy that can induce a current that becomes noise. My solution is to use professional equipment with laptop recording software. It is more money and trouble, but the quality is very high.

Step 1: Get a mic mixer for the PC, so that you can use professional mics. I prefer the ones that plug into the USB or FIREWIRE port so that I can bypass the internal sound card. Others connect to the “LINE IN” jack of your sound card, if it has one (not the computer’s MIC jack).

I no longer use the M-Audio MobilePre USB – 2 Channel USB Mic Preamp with XLR and 1/8″ Stereo Miniplug Mic Inputs

I changed to the Lexicon Lambda just because it works under Vista and Windows 7 (and, WIndows 10).

At my desk, I prefer the four microphone mixer, Yamaha Steinberg USB Driver MX10XU

Step 2: Buy an appropriate mic. If the mic does not (more…)

The Conversation Contract™


Here is a complete toolkit for implementing one of my most powerful and versatile techniques, The Conversation Contract™. Leading psychologist Thomas Harris, author of the bestselling I’m OK–You’re OK, developed the basic process to help people conduct the most important and stressful conversations in their lives. I have refined it over the past fifteen years in my work with salespeople, managers, government officials, and CEOs to its present form. You can use it for better meetings, telephone calls, and family interactions.

Start with this video and reinforce your skills with the printouts linked below. You may also want to use my 12 Step Program for productive confrontation by clicking here, Conversations that Make a Difference.

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Group Agreement

 


 

Handshake

For a group of people to work smoothly together, each member must understand what constitutes agreement. This understanding is often left in the background, unexamined, as everyone assumes their standards match those of other people. Fundamental to the success of the executive off sites I conduct is helping the group make these assumptions explicit so that everyone is playing by the same rules. If, in fact, everyone has the same standards, we finish this step quickly. If not, time invested early to clarify the ground rules saves a lot of time (and upset) later.

There are two essential parts: clarity and verity. First, everyone must be clear on what is being agreed. Second, the group needs a way to know if agreement has been reached.

 


 

#1) What’s the deal?

  • Clarity: Details of the agreement
    • What, how, when ,who, where.
    • Explicit standards of (more…)

Creative Conflict




I heard one CEO executive coaching client summarize the tremendous value of his coach’s listening and probing by saying, “This is where I come to get my answers questioned.” Top executives, especially those operating in a strong corporate culture, can find themselves in an echo chamber where everyone seems to be saying the same thing, thereby confusing their mutual agreement with reality. It is the most “obvious” assumptions that most severely constrict our thinking.

Alfred P. Sloan

Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here,” he started, and everyone nodded their heads in agreement. “Then,” he went on, “I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until the next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement, and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”

–Alfred Sloan
GM 1923-1956




Sometimes, the best coaching is “Stop!”

An executive coach once asked me, “Is it ever appropriate to interrupt while your client is speaking?” My response is, “Yes,” for the following reasons:

  1. There are some clients who just will not stop. If I do not interrupt they will talk to exhaustion. Often, they are talking about or around the issue and filling the bandwidth to subtly avoid dealing with the issue.
  2. Sometimes I sense that the client is so immersed in the minutia that they have lost their point–and, often, are boring themselves, too.
  3. The client may be demonstrating exactly the behavior that is keeping them locked in the situation we are working to release, so an interruption pointing to the behavior is the way to free the client. My interruption sometimes takes the form of, “You’re doing it right now.” or “Do you recognize that speaking in this way is exactly what keeps it the way it is?”

Still, I am certain that a big part of my value is intense, patient, appreciative listening. I can’t go too far wrong by listening a little “too long.” For coaches, silence really is golden. As one client told me, “I appreciate the way you let silence do the heavy lifting.”




Roadwork for Enduring Results


 

Roadwork for Enduring Success

I developed this talk for the initial meeting of executive coaching groups to prepare them for the slow, sometimes difficult aspects of their work. I have used it many times to great effect when launching teams into other long-term projects. Some of my coaching clients have even adapted it for their own presentations.

Click below for the video with (more…)