The Art of Listening

Why listening is an art form...

Reza Rezvi
Written by
Reza Rezvi

May 20, 2022

The Art of Listening

The concept of listening, so simple isn’t it? Yet so overlooked, especially by sales reps and business owners who generally blab on about how great they are….without realizing that the prospective client is actually crawling out of their skin texting someone to call them so they can abort the meeting ASAP! 

Once you realize that listening shapes how you can add value, that’s when magic happens! 

“Why Are You Writing Down the Client’s Entire Story?!”

I was recently in a meeting with a prominent female figure whose objective was to secure keynote speaking sessions at major conferences on the subject of mental health and domestic abuse. 

My first question to her was, “Tell us your story.”

My colleagues and I let her speak, virtually uninterrupted, for approx. 90mins. While she was explaining the intricacies of her inspiring story, it was like I was on caffeine overload, trying to capture every word almost verbatim.

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A splitting image of me typing away like a madman!

We wrapped up the call with next steps and then my colleague asked, “why did you write down her entire story?”.

My response, “In between the white lines of the story is how I’m able to understand the messaging”. 

People remember stories, not the 'product; or its features...STORIES!

Most of the time, 70% of the answer lies within the story itself. If you’re patient enough to listen intently to your clients (beit at the time of discovery or during the engagement), you’ll be able tounravel the key insights which will shape the strategy.

Listening = Value ; Talking = Disinterest  

Dr. Karen Altfest, EVP and Principal of Altfest Personal Wealth Management in NYC, was a mentor in the early days of my marketing career. She would be in a client meeting with a few advisors, and while everyone would be talking, she’d stay silent 95% of the time scribbling away on her legal pad. Occasionally she’d look up, and then continue scribbling her notes at rapid speed. 

The 5% of the time when Karen would open her mouth, she’d say something profound and the room would come to a standstill. The client would instantly feel a bond with Karen because she took time to listen, digest and subsequently provide value to the discussion.

Karen would then give me her notes which I’d read line-by-line and it was a masterpiece. Needless to say, in all future meetings, Karen’s notes were the blueprint for all future meetings…until she eventually passed the baton to me to manage the new client process.

As a framework, ask questions (10%) but listen more (90%)

Asking Questions = An 80% Conversion Rate

Altfest has investment minimums of $1 million and I’d spend 60mins (sometimes even more) listening to the prospective client and asking probing questions (very personal questions - salary, college savings for children, wills, etc.) which the prospect would comfortably answer. Not once did someone say, “that’s intrusive” or “I’d prefer not to answer that”. I also wouldn’t ask a single question relating to their investment assets….until the verryyy end of the conversation, and then they’d spill the beans. 

Why Did I Do This?

Because I didn’t lead by being selfish, instead I was genuinely interested to hear the client’s goals and their story. Some may call this “inefficient”, I call this being a good human.

The Result: A whopping 80% conversion rate out of which 50% clients signed up in the very first meeting turning over millions of dollars for our management

Key Takeaways

When someone answers a question, most feel compelled to immediately rebuttal by touting how they’re so great in that particular area to “sell ourselves” to the client. What you don’t realize is that the arrogance and need to respond has the reverse effect. 

We live in a “solutions-based society”. Don’t be that person. If you take a moment to listen, the client’s solution will be waiting for you on a golden platter. 

Here are some actionable steps to become a good listener:

  • Create a list of open-ended questions (but don’t read them like a robot)
  • Ask questions (10%), but listen more (90%)
  • Write everything the client tells you, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem to you, personal interests count! (if you say, “I’ll remember”, I guarantee you won’t)
  • Bonus: Make life easier on yourself and “group” your notes into categories within 12 hours of the client meeting (while everything is still ‘fresh’)