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Listening: It Means Everything

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James A. Baldwin, American Author

listeningOccasionally I am asked to speak to business students at a few of our local colleges about what companies are looking for in prospective employees. Having just returned from watching our oldest daughter graduate from college last week, I found myself sending her some more of my free advice about her future, and a lot of this particular advice was about what I shared with the business students. (Wanted or not … dads can still do the free advice thing, you know!)

Kids coming out of school today are known as “Digital Natives,” a term bestowed upon them because they have never known life to exist without a computer. So why am I mentioning this? Because we live in an increasingly self-obsessed society. Social media has morphed into a “me first,” “it’s all about me” kind of environment. While you can argue that the “i” in iPod, iPhone and iPad stands for internet, one could make an argument that it stands for the individual…meaning I or me. Because it is all about me, right? (Selfies? Really?)

Lest you think I am off my rocker (again) let me issue this important disclaimer: of course these things are not bad in themselves. Technology is a wonderful thing and has drastically improved our lives in countless ways, and it will continue to do so at an exponential rate. It has drastically improved our ability to communicate, but I wonder if it has improved our commitment to clearly communicate, with “communicate” being defined as the ability to “output information and input information.” And may I confess something here? I am not a particularly good listener or communicator. Like most people, I am a work in progress when it comes to these things.

So what does listening have to do with our ability to staff a trade show display? Only everything. We are all just as prone to talk about ourselves and self-obsess as our prospects and customers!

One of the major keys to any relationship is respect. And one of the best ways – maybe even the very best way – to honor someone and show them respect is to listen. Ah, listen. What a great word. The word means to “hear with intention.” (It’s true! I asked Siri!) I’ll bet you that your best friend, no matter who he/she is, is your best friend because in large part, they listen to you. Note that listening is much more than being quiet. Business author Stephen Covey wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

The benefits of being a good listener are numerous. Columnist Doug Larson states, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d preferred to talk.” Famed interviewer Larry King added, “I remind myself every day that nothing I say will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

So how are you at listening? Trust me, effective listening will improve your lead counts and lead conversion to sales and make you a better marketer or sales person. It will make you a better owner. It will make all of us better managers and employees. But I suspect it will also make us better people…better spouses, better parents, and better friends. After writing this, I think I owe my daughter a phone call. Just to listen.

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To put your listening practices to good use, read the Better Booth Staffing for Greater Trade Show Results white paper. Learn how to be an effective and successful booth staffer by increasing your skills and perspective. Click here for your free copy.

About the Author

Bill was named President of Skyline Exhibits in 2010, following 11 years serving Skyline as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. As president, Bill is responsible for the strategic global direction of all aspects of the company.

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