Learn to listen. Listening is one of the most powerful tools that you can develop as an equine entrepreneur. Horse owners often have a lot of fears, concerns, and worries about whatever is going on at the barn and with their horses. As a professional, you will often come across clients who really want to share all of those concerns. Unfortunately, their emotional needs often get buried in a long-winded story that has meaning to them, but you may struggle to understand the significance. If you can be the professional that hears their concern and can empathize with them, you will quickly be their go-to service provider.
Listening can be easier said than done. You have to make a commitment to practicing this skill to improve your ability to actively listen. Below are techniques to improve your listening skills:
- Be attentive. Listening requires active participation and your full attention. Remaining silent while someone else talks, nodding your head, and occasionally grunting can be a fake front to listening but your client will not actually feel heard at the end of the conversation. Pay attention to the words they are using and the feelings that they are conveying.
- Notice your internal dialogue. Pay attention to the times when you tune out, start thinking about how you want to go home, or start judging what your client is saying. When listening, it is not all about me. Kindly remind your inner voice that you are listening to the other person right now, even if that is a stretch for you.
- Listen for their needs. What are they really saying, feeling, needing, and wanting? Sometimes you need to translate their words, which may come across as judgments, criticisms, gossip, or even a soliloquy, to uncover the point. They are telling you this for a reason. If you can hear that reason and empathize with them, they will feel heard, honored, and important. Nothing makes you feel more connected to another than when someone else really understands your heart ache.
- Interrupt as an act of kindness. Don’t be afraid to interrupt your client to clarify their point. Do not use interruption as a way to change the subject, make your own point, or correct them – use it as a way to make sure that you are hearing their feelings and needs. Mirroring back to them the underlying essence of the story feels good for them and can help to direct the conversation to a relevant discussion that will set you up as a solution to the problem.
- Don’t take it personally. Sometimes strong feelings and needs will seemingly be directed at you. An upset client is always a challenge. Try to hear their frustration, anger, or sadness without becoming defensive. Whether you are in the right or wrong, remain engaged in the conversation, let them be heard, empathize with their reaction to the situation, take responsibility without shaming or blaming, and offer solutions based on what they have said.
It’s important to remember that it is not your job to rescue, fix, or take responsibility for your client’s fears, concerns, and worries. The act of listening is a gift in and of itself. Just a willingness to hear your client will transform your relationship and position you as a person they trust and recommend.
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Stef Perkins Durham is an Equine Entrepreneur Expert who helps self-employed equine professionals that struggle to market their services effectively and are motivated to fill their practice with clients consistently. Stef can help you get clear, get organized, and get clients with holistic marketing strategies that work. Click on the links to find out more about the Equi-preneurship System.