Listening With Mirrors
Leading clients is a contact sport. As the former Executive Director of Client Leadership (fancy title I know!) at Verge Pipe Media, I learned to roll up my sleeves and get dirty to lead our clients successfully.
Being able to do this requires certain tools in your client services toolbox. Therefore, in my upcoming series of blogs I pull back the curtain and reveal some tools that I’ve used to be successful.
The first tip I’d like to discuss is “listening with mirrors.” "Listening with mirrors?" you say. "What does that even mean?" I’m glad you asked.
The way I like to define listening with mirrors is as follows: Listen to your clients intently and then reflect back to them what they just communicated. This is sometimes called “reflective listening,” I’ve come to learn. But I like the sound of listening with mirrors. It presents a great visual reminder for me.
Seriously it does. If I think in my head “mirrors” as I start a discussion with a client, it reminds me to focus on what a client is telling me and then probe deeper into what they just said. This doesn’t mean just repeating what they said, it means responding with reflection (mirrors, get it). Responding with reflection allows the client to “re-see” or rethink about what they just told you.
Reflective sentences may begin like this:
“It sounds like…”
“What I’m hearing is…”
Beginning your phrasing like this allows you to reflect back, in your own words, what you understood them say. This is often different than what they actually said or what they mean to say. Listening with mirrors usually prompts the client to fill in gaps or add further explanation as to what they wanted to convey. Thus, you are both ultimately speaking the same language when it comes to the problem or situation the client is laying out before you.
Another key piece of listening with mirrors is to not judge what the person said when you reflect back. This gives your client a chance to see how they’re coming across, which may or may not be how they meant to come across with the message. Not judging will prevent you from coming across as rude or argumentative, which could lead the client to get defensive.
Reflecting back with clients can give you the chance to overstate or slightly embellish their comment or issue in order to see if they really meant what they said. This method may surprise your client, but will usually cause them to pause and consider if they really meant what they said, or if the problem is a big as it seems. Again, it’s all about making the client think about their needs in a different light and possibly re-evaluate or re-prioritize what really matters.
Trust me, It works
I have found in most cases that listening with mirrors is validating to our clients. Think about who you communicate with on a regular basis. How do you feel when that someone takes the time to really listen to what you say and take the time to understand your problems? Feels pretty good right?!
Listening with mirrors is a zero-cost client service and the return can be tremendous! Reflecting back to clients consistently will help you better retain your current clients and make it easier for prospects and new clients to see that you are genuinely interested in helping them solve problems. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?