People often talk about the importance of listening, and indeed it is critical. But it's much harder today to really listen with all the distractions of modern life. Businesses can lose their customer service focus if they're not fully tuned in. And it's not just about hearing your customer's voices. It's also about recognizing what they're not saying, and satisfying needs they don't even know they have.

YPO member Bobby Jorgensen is all ears. When Jorgensen opened his first car dealership - in Detroit - he knew he would have to be different to attract customers in such an overcrowded market. His solution sounds simple: listen to the customers very, very carefully. But it's not as easy as it seems. Truly understanding what customers are communicating is a skill Jorgensen had to develop. But the more he listened, the more his dealership, Kistler Ford, grew.

Here, Jorgensen shares his philosophy on exactly why listening makes for good business and society:

1. Most Don't Do It

If you're looking for a way to differentiate yourself, Jorgensen advises being a better listener. "People talk about how important listening is," Jorgensen says. "But it's much harder today to really do it, so they don't follow through." When he opened his dealership, Jorgensen listened everywhere: his customers, his salespeople, even his kids. What he found was a customer base longing for someone to take the time to hear and understand their needs. He says, "Oddly, with all the communication technology we have, I've found people actually listen even less." Jorgensen was there to fill this void for his customers, and his dealership took off. Listening is an inexpensive, effective way of making yourself stand out to consumers.

2. People Don't Like a Salesman

Jorgensen started to build his company by asking a lot of what he called "common sense questions." Jorgensen reflected, "What do people hate? They hate salespeople. But why, exactly?" Now, Jorgensen believes the way we sell cars is broken. He explains, "People hate going into a dealership and getting beaten down in the finance office. So we don't!" So in addition to making his dealership unique, listening also makes Jorgensen's dealership a more pleasant place for people to visit.

3. It's Free, With Huge ROI

For Jorgensen, one of the most satisfying parts of listening is that it's free. Customer service doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. Sometimes what's really needed is genuine attention. "Listening is an opportunity," Jorgensen asserts. "It takes more time, but sitting and listening to my customers and my salespeople has been the single most important thing I've done for my organization." By listening carefully, Jorgensen is able to hear what his competitors cannot, and thereby stay a step ahead of them.

4. There a Lot to Hear in Silence

Jorgensen likes to listen even when there aren't words. He explains, "Sometimes you need to listen not to only what is being said, but also for more subtle cues of what their needs, wants, and feelings are." This has been hugely beneficial for his sales. "By paying close attention, I've been able to fulfill needs my customers didn't even know they had." Listening well requires a calm mindset. Jorgensen advises, "Slow down, and be still before you go into a listening situation. It will help get you attuned to the atmosphere." Listening to what's there, and to what's not there, Jorgensen has been able to identify and answer the questions customers can't verbalize themselves.

5. It Builds Trust

Listening closely to someone is a sign of respect. "In my experience," Jorgensen says, "the most successful leaders listen more than they talk." He explains, "When you listen to others, they will be more open to listening to you." When people feel safe, it also means they're comfortable. Jorgensen emphasizes, "Customers like to be familiar with where they buy. It gives them the feeling of time, confidence, and control." All these elements work together to create an atmosphere where people want to buy, and want to return to next time they buy.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Jan 26, 2018
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