Seek First to Understand

This the fifth post in my series of posts about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. It is my slant on each of the habits, and how each relates to being a small business owner. To read the whole series, click here.

Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

One of the first thing I tell my VA students is to look at the message they are putting out for their clients.

Most often I find that they are talking about what a VA is … not how a VA can help their clients.

It’s a common error but we quickly turn it around by doing a lesson on how (and why!) to learn more about your clients.

And all small business owners need to heed this advice.

Learn about your clients – what they do, how they do it, who they do it with, where they do it when they do it and even why they do it.

The answers to these questions will give you invaluable insight into how to communicate with your audience, and how to build relationships with them quickly and easily.

It’s important to ask questions to get the answers you need. There is the research stage, of course, when you start to think about how you can serve a particular market. And then there is the practical stage, when you are networking with that market, and developing relationships with potential clients.

Always focus on what your potential clients need. And then help them make decisions about whether to work with you or not by taking their cues, and letting them know how you can help them solve their problem. Ask first, and then give your input about how you have helped others with a similar situation. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

If they are not making enough money in their business, you will want to understand why that is. What are they doing now to earn? What have they tried in the past? What has worked for them? What has not worked for them? And so on.

I became acutely aware of this habit by a colleague many years ago. She watched me do a presentation Q&A and gave me feedback and the end. She noticed that I was replying very quickly to the questions that the participants were asking. She thought I made them feel stupid because I was forming the answer to the question in my head while they were still asking it. What feedback! I had no idea! I made solid adjustments to my question-response timing and I even found that I got more information out of the prospect by not jumping in so quickly. It’s definitely an effective strategy.

People will listen to what you have to say, but they always want to know how you can help them and how much it will cost them. It’s natural. So start there, and you’ll move forward a lot faster.

I’d love for you to share your insights about understanding your audience on my Facebook page.

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