Earlier this week my business partner wrote a great blog on why listening is a crucial skill. I encourage you to read it either before—but make sure you come back! --or immediately after you read on here.

http://markkolier.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/to-become-a-better-listener-try-not-saying-anything/

This became painfully clear to me later this week in a new business meeting. Allow me to set the stage; we get a lead from a friend which includes a link to the prospect’s website. We pore over the site, come up with some thoughts on how we can help improve the site and what types of executional ideas we would suggest in the first meeting with the prospect. We’re fifty yards downfield and so ready to let this prospect hear our ideas.

As we usually do in these meetings, we asked them to talk about their business and their situation first. Smart move. The ‘friend’ who sent us the company’s website link had sent us the WRONG link. We researched the wrong company. We had ideas that were irrelevant to the people in the room. What are the chances that two companies with such similar names could be in the same major product category but vastly different subcategory verticals?

100% this week.

Here we were prepared to toss out ideas that would have been head-scratchers to these guys in what would have been a very short meeting. Instead, by letting them talk we learned so much about their business and their issues. Of course we asked clarifying questions to show we were tracking along throughout, but they clearly did most of the talking. 75 minutes into a one-hour meeting we finally talked about ourselves for less than ten minutes. It was a great meeting.  They liked us.

Luckily my partners and I are very fast on our feet. We recovered like a kid flying head over heels from his bike proclaiming “I meant to do that”.

Who am I kidding? Asking them to speak first saved our asses.

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